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Seroconversion to Filarial Antigens in Australian Defence Force Personnel in Timor-Leste

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  • 1 Australian Army Malaria Institute, Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, Queensland, Australia; Helminth Immunology Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; Lymphatic Filariasis Support Centre, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia; Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Herston, Queensland, Australia; University of Queensland, Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Herston, Queensland, Australia
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To investigate whether Australian soldiers were exposed to filarial parasites that cause lymphatic filariasis during a 6-month deployment to Timor-Leste, antifilarial antibody levels were measured in 907 soldiers using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Initial testing using Dirofilaria immitis antigen demonstrated that 49 of 907 (5.4%) soldiers developed antifilarial antibodies of the IgG1 subclass after deployment, whereas 1 of 944 (0.1%) seroconverted to the IgG4 subclass. When a sub sample of 88 D. immitis-reactive sera was subject to testing with an antifilarial antibody test using Brugia malayi antigen, 46 had elevated IgG antibodies, whereas 5 had elevated antibodies of the IgG4 subclass. A total of 24 soldiers seroconverted to B. malayi, as measured by parasite-specific IgG, whereas 1 seroconverted to IgG4. The relatively low number of seroconversions indicates a low but measurable risk of exposure to human filarial parasites among Australian soldiers deployed to Timor-Leste. However, to reduce the risk of exposure to these parasites, soldiers deploying to endemic areas should practice strict adherence to personal protective measures against mosquito bites.

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