Parasite Antigenemia in Untreated and Treated Lymphatic Filarial Infections

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  • Guizhou Provincial Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Guiyang, Guizhou, People's Republic of China

To evaluate the merit of antigen detection assays as a tool to monitor the efficacy of chemotherapy for lymphatic filariasis, we serially measured antigen levels in sera from jirds infected with Brugia malayi and from humans with bancroftian filariasis. Antigenemia was detected in all animals with parasitologically proven infection and was present in jirds with prepatent or occult filariasis. Antigen levels correlated with worm burdens, and progressively declined in drug-cured animals. Treatment with diethylcar-bamazine (DEC) triggered a transient increase in serum levels of filarial antigens bearing the epitope recognized by the monoclonal antibody HC 11. All patients with bancroftian filariasis became amicrofilaremic within one week after DEC treatment. Antigenemia levels slowly declined over a period of several months in all but one treated individual. Forty-two months after treatment, progressively rising antigen levels are present in 10 patients. Six of these remain amicrofilaremic; in the other 4, elevated antigenemia levels preceded or were detected at the same time as recurrent parasitemia. Periodic monitoring of antigenemia levels after treatment of patients with lymphatic filariasis can be used to identify individuals who are likely to develop recurrent microfilaremia before the parasites become detectable in blood samples, thereby allowing timely retreatment.