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Adv Parasitol. 2003;53:149-93.

Diagnosis of human filariases (except onchocerciasis).

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Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Churchill Hospital, University of Oxford, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LJ, UK.


The traditional method of diagnosing filarial infections is to examine blood or skin samples for microfilariae and for many this is still the standard procedure. However, since the present global campaign to eliminate lymphatic filariasis new diagnostic tools have emerged like PCR, antigen detection using finger-prick blood taken during the day and ultrasound to visualize adult worms. The last two can be applied in endemic countries with limited resources and enable the detection of early infections. As well as their value in control schemes, the latter is particularly important for the individual since recent research has shown that damage is usually caused long before symptoms appear. The usefulness in different situations and the advantages and disadvantages of the various new tools for diagnosis of lymphatic filariasis are discussed. For loiasis, immunodiagnostic methods have not been very successful but repetitive DNA sequences in the Loa genome have been found to be species specific. Techniques based on them are particularly useful for diagnosing cases of occult infection without microfilaraemia. There have been no advances in the diagnosis of Mansonella perstans but both immunodiagnostic and PCR tests show promise in differentiating M. streptocerca, and the latter in differentiating M.ozzardi, from Onchocerca. In addition to the human filariae, the dog parasites Dirofilaria immitis and D. repens can also occur in humans but do not produce microfilariae in them. ELISAs and PCR probes have been devised and can usefully differentiate between pulmonary dirofilariasis and lung cancer.

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