Stories tagged elephantiasis

Oct
08
2008

A leg. With elephantiasis.: Or lymphatic filariasis, if you will.
A leg. With elephantiasis.: Or lymphatic filariasis, if you will.Courtesy otisarchives1
Y’all know about elephantitis, right? Sever thickening of the tissue in the legs and genitals, to the point of developing massive, lumpy appendages (like and elephant, I suppose). Not a condition you’d want to develop, right?

Well don’t sweat it, kids and adults—elephatitis doesn’t actually exist. There’s a big weight off your back (and legs and genitals).

Unfortunately, this silver cloud has a rainy lining: while elephantitis isn’t a real thing, elephantiasis is. And elephantiasis is pretty much exactly what I described above, only it’s often mispronounced as “elephantitis.” Oh, fudge.

Elephantiasis, basically, results the body’s own response to some foreign agent—sometimes irritants in the soil, but usually parasitic worms cause the massive inflammation. And maybe the worms sometimes prevent it too… (for more on that, take a look at this Buzz post from last month)

When you get tight down to it, elephantiasis isn’t great to have. It hurts, and it makes life more difficult. Millions of people around the world have the disease, and about 1.3 billion people (a fifth of the world’s population) are considered “at risk” for contracting the disease that causes elephantiasis.

However, the World Health Organization is making a push to distribute a cheap and simple cure for the disease to all at risk areas (the effort was described in a BBC piece today). It’s estimated that the project has prevented 6.6 million children from developing the condition, and halted its progression in another 9.5 million people.

The treatment is based on a couple different drugs, neither of which are mentioned in the BBC article, but I’m guessing that it’s referring to albendazole and ivermectin. These drugs are anti-parasitic, attacking the worms that cause elephantiasis. Getting rid of your worms is generally a good thing, and it should prevent the development of elephantiasis, but I bet that—as the article implies—it won’t eliminate elephantiasis once it’s in its severe form. So, you know, catch it early.

The WHO program hopes to more or less eliminate elephantiasis by 2020. Although there are no known cases of elephantitis, I’m afraid that one may stick around a little longer.