13 Nov 2018

In Malawi, two main foci of lymphatic filariasis (LF) are known to exist: one in the south, in the Shire valley, and the other in the north, along the Songwe River, on the border with Tanzania. There have been no formal surveys in the Songwe area since the 1960s but an opportunity arose in 2000-2001 to map LF in this area, in the context of a leprosy survey that formed part of the follow-up of a large leprosy and tuberculosis vaccine trial. Overall 687 immunochromatographic (ICT) tests were carried out. Wuchereria bancrofti antigenaemia was found in > 25% of adults in each of the 12 villages sampled (four in the Songwe area and eight in the rest of the Karonga district), with village prevalences varying from 28%-58%. Of the 685 adult male residents of the Songwe area who were each given full-body clinical examinations, 80 (11.7%) were identified as cases of hydrocele. Lymphoedema was found in seven (1.0%) of these adult males and in 29 (3.7%) of the 769 adult female residents of the Songwe area who were also examined. Microfilariae were detected in 33 (30.8%) of the 107 thick smears of night-blood samples that were made from individuals with positive ICT cards. The W. bancrofti infection focus in Karonga district is therefore wider than was previously known. This has important implications for the implementation and eventual impact of LF-control activities in this area.