Persistence of Parasite Antigenemia Following Diethylcarbamazine Therapy of Bancroftian Filariasis

Gary J. WeilDepartment of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110

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K. V. P. Sethumadhavan
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S. Santhanam
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D. C. Jain
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T. K. Ghosh
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This study was designed to reexamine the efficacy of diethylcarbamazine for bancroftian filariasis with special reference to changes in serum parasite antigen levels and antifilarial antibody titers after treatment. Patients with asymptomatic microfilaremia were treated with 6 mg/kg diethylcarbamazine daily for 12 days. Microfilaria counts fell dramatically after treatment, as expected. IgG antibody titers to adult and microfilarial antigens of B. malayi were increased 1 month after treatment in most patients. Titers fell slowly to or below pretreatment levels, but remained positive during subsequent months. Parasite antigen levels, measured by monoclonal antibody-based enzyme immunoassay, decreased to 72%, 58%, 53%, and 48% of pretreatment values 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after diethylcarbamazine treatment, respectively. Parasite antigen levels decreased similarly in subjects with and without residual microfilaremia after treatment. These results suggest that diethylcarbamazine has only partial macrofilaricidal activity against W. bancrofti with this dosage schedule. The sustained, impressive reductions in microfilaria counts after treatment despite significant persistence of parasite antigenemia may be explained by sublethal effects of the drug on adult worms. We believe that parasite antigen detection represents a valuable new approach for monitoring the efficacy of antifilarial drug therapy which we hope will lead to improved use of existing drugs and aid in the evaluation of new drugs for filariasis.

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