There are so many diseases that medicine can not define and cure but many of them are coming directly from the unlimited power of the mosquitoes to transfer one of the deadliest illnesses ever.However we look at those  aggressive insects, we must ask ourselves what is their real role in the ecosystem beside the bringing the damage to the human race.

If it is not an exotic virus that is ready to eat up our brain and deliver us like a smashed watermelon, then it is definitely a parasite that will crawl into our blood and turn our peaceful lives into the nightmare of Stephen King novels. That doesn’t say much about the ability of humans to adapt on the nature surprises, but about the lack of mankind’s  capacity to deal with the silent weapons of the Mother Nature. No matter how progressed we are in technical way, we are still afraid thinking animals.


Could you imagine the disease that is causing an extreme swelling in the arms and legs?The picture itself is very disturbing and it refers on a parasitic infection based on the nematode parasites known as a filarial worms, Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and B. timori.The dangerous parasite is taken from one person to another via female mosquitoes that feeds on human blood and due to its own meal, transfers the infection further:“Elephantiasis is typically characterized by a thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that gives rise to the grossly enlarged and swollen limbs that earn the condition its name. The condition is also called lymphatic filariasis.” The adult worm is located always in lymphatic system of humans so that causes the blockage which indicates the swelling of  the certain body parts, making them large and puffy, almost elephant-like.


It is interesting to know that only specific mosquitoes are vectors of this parasite and they are the following: Culex (KYU-lex), Anopheles (a-NOF-e-LEEZ), Aedes (ay-EE-deez), or Mansonia (man-SO-ne-a) so the endemic areas are those that are famous for being a reservoir of tropical or subtropical diseases: South America, Cuba, Puerto Rico, West Indies, Africa, Spain, Turkey, Asia, Australia, and many South Pacific Islands. According to some evidence, about 120 million of people are suffering from this disease and 40 million of them, based on WHO latest reports are developing always the severe form of the infection.


The genesis of the disease is not naive at all. In the areas that are under the high risk of exposing to this worm, almost every person must be aware of these facts:“Worm larvae that make their way into lymph vessels  can mature into adult worms. Male worms are long and slender, about 4 to 5 cm long, and 0.1 mm in diameter. Female worms are much larger, 6 to 10 cm long, and about three times wider than the males. The adults make their home mostly near the  lymph glands in the lower part of the body. The adult female releases eggs enclosed within an egg membrane (microfilariae), and the microfilariae (mi-kro-fi-LAR-ee-i) develop into larvae to continue the life cycle.In most parts of the world, microfilariae are at their peak in the blood during the night. The worms restrict the normal flow of lymph, resulting in swelling, thickening of the skin, and discoloration. This is what can cause the appearance of an  elephant’s leg. However, the swelling of elephantiasis usually does not occur until a person has been bitten by the disease-carrying mosquitoes many times and has had years of exposure to infected mosquitoes”


The Elephantiasis is not the new discovery because the disease itself has been described in old medical books of Greeks and Romans but the awareness of the people is on the rise in last 20 years. The main problem is a long incubation period so the worms have enough time to settle their colonies within the human organism and to cause the final disorder. When larvae reach the third stage of their development, they are searching for a new host and that is exactly how the infection chain is operating.After the circulation is restricted, the elephantiasis became the typical visible outcome of the worms accumulation for the years. The concrete symptoms  involves: blocked lymph ducts, brawny skin color, enlarged groin lymph nodes, fever and fibrotic skin tissue, massive leg swelling, skin ulceration,pain in testicles, the grossy skin appearance.  Sometimes it is followed with the overall weakness and that goes up with the progression of the worms inside the body.

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The accent is on the right diagnosis so the treatment could be enabled as soon as possible. Unfortunately, when it comes to the adult worms, the medicaments have no great success against them so the surgery is rather recommended. The parasite could be seen in blood under microscope but the doctor must have develop the doubts on this disease. In the silent period of incubation, one can not even think of possible infection and the elephantiasis.


The diethylcarbamazine or DEC is used against the worms and it shows the positive results in killing the adult worms and baby worms. The side effects of the illness are definitely connected with bacteria infection that is caused by lack of hygienic standards in regard of the infected swelling zone of the body. Some of the patients have not followed the instructions and they have not treated their affected parts with the soap and safe waters so that caused deeper bacterial infection. The lack of simple exercises turned the targeted body parts into the hopeless damage.


As always, the prevention is a way better than any sanitation.  What we need to know before we rise into the tropical and subtropical areas it is more than a crucial for our complete health state. The knowledge will save us all or at least, it will reduce the possibility for us to be hurt by lack of right information in the right time. The spraying to kill mosquitoes and giving  antibiotics to prevent infection are just some of the recommendations before you hit the road and find yourself into some of the poor countries that are fighting with the risk of Elephantiasis.


The situation with this disease is almost a paradox. The economically poor countries that have issue with this have no enough financial support to research the cure  and those who have material base and support have no real interest to do it. For now, all we can to do is to hope that aggressive worm will not visit us when we visit some of the countries that are known for this parasite and Elephantiasis itself. We also must do all we can to help those who are affected with this dangerous disease and to stop them being neglected by the society and the health system. They are humans too, we own them a help.




  1. Sarah’s excellent article reminded me of Proteus syndrome; a rare congenital disorder that causes skin overgrowth and atypical bone development. Often, it is accompanied by tumors over half the body. Only a few more than 200 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with estimates that about 120 people are currently alive with the condition. As attenuated forms of the disease may exist, there could be many people with Proteus syndrome who remain undiagnosed. Those most readily diagnosed are also the most severely disfigured.

    Proteus syndrome is a progressive condition wherein children are usually born without any obvious deformities. Tumors of skin and bone growths appear as they age. The severity and locations of these various asymmetrical growths vary greatly but typically the skull, one or more limbs, and soles of the feet will be affected. There is a risk of premature death in affected individuals due to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism caused by the vessel malformations that are associated with this disorder. Because of carrying excess weight and enlarged limbs, arthritis and muscle pain may be symptoms, as well.

    The Proteus syndrome research team in The National Human Genome Research Institute at the US-National Institutes of Health have initiated a Phase 0 dose finding trial which commenced in November of 2015. Many sources classify Proteus syndrome to be a type of nevus syndrome. The lesions appear to be distributed in a mosaic manner. It has been confirmed that the disorder is an example of genetic mosaicism.

    Mandy Sellars (born in 1975, in Lancashire, England) is a woman with a rare genetic mutation that has resulted in extraordinary growth in both of her legs. In 2006, some doctors diagnosed Miss Sellars as having Proteus syndrome. At 19 (in 1994), Mandy Sellars moved out to live on her own. She obtained a B.Sc. in psychology from the University of Central Lancashire, in England, and maintained an independent lifestyle as an adult, with no live-in helpers. She moved around using crutches or a wheelchair, and had a specially modified hand-controlled car.

    When Sellars was 28 (in 2003), she suffered a deep vein thrombosis, which left her paralyzed from the waist down for about six or eight weeks. Afterward, she had to learn to walk again. Three years later, she got a blood infection, her kidneys failed, and she contracted MRSA.

    Ultimately, it was expected that she would have to have her legs amputated. When the television documentary series Extraordinary People devoted an episode to her called The Woman with Giant Legs (2008), it paid for her trip to The United States of America to consult renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr William Ertl and prosthetic expert Kevin Carroll. After examining her, they gave her hope that she would be able to have a less drastic amputation than the one recommended by her doctors, which would have severely curtailed her independence.
    Her left leg was amputated above the knee in 2010. 22 months after the surgery, her leg began to grow at an accelerated rate and her limb began to balloon again. Almost straight away, the stump began increasing in circumference and it became harder to fit inside the prosthetic leg. The stump eventually got so heavy it nearly broke the prosthetic leg.

    Sarah’s article ends on a note of benevolence: for healthy people to consider those suffering from such debilitating and restrictive illnesses as Proteus syndrome. Thank you Sarah for your insightful journalism and encouraging words!


  2. What an excellent article Sandra. It is well-written, informative and beneficial. You pointed out how to prevent such disease from happening to us that I will remember for years to come when I visit one of those disease hosting countries. I look forward to reading your next informative work. Thank you and keep these good articles coming.


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !