Thursday, October 3, 2019

Filariasis in history

Lymphatic filariasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by infection with the mosquito-borne, thread-like, parasitic filarial worms Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and B. timori.

In Egypt, nocturnally periodic bancroftian filariasis has been endemic since Pharaonic times. The first written documents of filariasis come from the ancient Greek and Roman writers who could differentiate between the similar symptoms of leprosy and filariasis.

Jan Huygen Linschoten during his trip to Goa between 1588 and 1592 first documented the disease symptoms and wrote that inhabitants ‘‘all born with one of their legs and one foot from the knee downwards as thick as an elephant’s leg.’’

Filariasis was the first human disease described in which transmission through the skin was cause by the bites of arthropods. Doctor O. Wucherer (1868) found the embryonic filarial worms in the urine of a patient in Bahia, Brazil. T. R. Lewis (1872), working in India, observed the embryos in the urine and also in the blood, and Joseph Bancroft (1878) in Brisbane, Australia first described the adult worm. The parasite has been designated Wuchereria bancrofti.

The momentous discovery of the role of the mosquito in transmitting the disease was made by the Scotsman Patrick Mansion (1877) while he was practicing medicine in the Far East with the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. He became interested in the disease that confronted him, including filariasis. In that disease he recognized the parasites in peripheral blood films and also in postmortems material.

Patrick Mansion noted the nocturnal appearance of the parasites in the peripheral blood and postulated that a blood sucking insect might be responsible for transmitting the infection. Manson proved the presence of the microfilaria in the mosquito Culex fatigans, thus supplying the missing link in the life cycle of the disease.
Filariasis in history

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