Lymphatic filariasis is infection with the filarial worms, Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi or B. timori. These parasites are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and develop into adult worms in the lymphatic vessels, causing severe damage and swelling (lymphoedema). Elephantiasis – painful, disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs – is a classic sign of late-stage disease.
The infection can be treated with drugs. However, chronic conditions may not be curable by anti-filarial drugs and require other measures, eg. surgery for hydrocele, care of the skin and exercise to increase lymphatic drainage in lymphoedema.