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Sunday 27th May 2018

Antibiotic for filariasis: study

28th April 2008

Researchers in Indonesia have found that lymphatic filariasis, one of the causes of elephantiasis which affects millions in the country, can be treated using a common antibiotic.


Lymphatic filariasis is the most common filariasis seen in southeast Asian countries, and is caused by nematode worms Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi.

Currently, the worms are treated with a combination of dethylcarbamazine and albendazole, but the side-effects of this regime are hard to tolerate, including fever, headache, dizziness and enlarged lymph nodes.

Instead, a trial carried out by researchers at the University of Indonesia found that the antibiotic doxycycline, already known to be effective against Wuchereria bancrofti, also works against the Brugia malayi worms, which cause more than half of cases in southeast Asia.

A research team led by Taniawati Supali from the Department of Parasitology treated 161 adult participants with Brugia malayi filariasis with either doxycycline, diethylcarbamazine and albendazole, both treatments or placebo versions.

They published their findings in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

After six weeks, 77% of patients receiving doxycycline were negative for Brugia malayi after one year, compared with 27% that had received diethylcarbamazine and albendazole. Doxycycline also caused the lowest side effects.

Treatment requires a full six-week course of 100 mg of doxycycline per day, so would be a hard regime for the Indonesian government to implement, given the great distance of many sufferers from medical facilities. There were also concerns about the levels of compliance with treatment in rural areas, as failure to complete the course could build resistance in the worms, Supali said.

Sekartuti, a team leader at the National Filariasis Elimination Program at the Ministry of Health, said Indonesia was currently relying on a community-based strategy, giving single oral treatment diethylcarbamazine annually for a term of five years.

She estimated the number of people living with filariasis in Indonesia at around 10 million, with 150 million Indonesians living in areas where filariasis is endemic.

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