Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by an infection of microscopic, threadlike worms known as Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi. The worms enter the lymphatic system (the network of vessels and nodes that maintain the body's fluid balance and help fight infection) and block the passages. In some people, this can cause lymphedema, a massive swelling in an arm, leg, or the genital area. Lymphatic filariasis is also known as elephantiasis.
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Honor Society of Nursing (STTI) answered
Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, is a parasitic infestation of nematodes. Nematodes are worms, commonly known as roundworms because of their shape. The nematodes that invade the human body and damage internal structures are Brugia malayi, Brugia timori, and Wuchereria bancrofti.
The disease is transmitted from human to human by certain species of mosquitoes. Mosquito species that can transmit the disease are Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes and some Anophele s species; Brugia roundworms are primarily transmitted by Mansonia mosquitoes.
If a human is infected, he or she carries larvae, known as microfilariae, in the bloodstream. A larva is the transitional form of a worm between the egg and adult. If an infected person is bitten by a mosquito that is capable of carrying the microfilaria, these organisms then develop within the mosquito to an infective stage. The process takes one to three weeks before the larvae travel to the mosquito's biting mouth parts. When the mosquito bites another human, the larvae enter that person's bloodstream, thus completing the infectious cycle.
The microfilariae travel from the bloodstream into the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels that maintain a delicate fluid balance between body's tissues and the bloodstream. They lodge in the lymphatic system where they mature into adult worms. These worms live for four to six years and produce millions of immature microfilariae that circulate in the blood.
The adult worms block the normal flow of lymphatic fluid, damaging the lymphatic system. This blockage produces tremendous enlargement of the arms, legs, or genitals, which may swell up to several times their normal size. The worms also lodge in the kidneys, causing damage to this organ.
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