Lymphatic Filariasis Increases Tissue Compressibility and Extracellular Fluid in Lower Limbs of Asymptomatic Young People in Central Myanmar

Trop Med Infect Dis. 2017 Sep 27;2(4):50. doi: 10.3390/tropicalmed2040050.


When normal lymphatic function is hampered, imperceptible subcutaneous edema can develop and progress to overt lymphedema. Low-cost reliable devices for objective assessment of lymphedema are well accepted in clinical practice and research on breast-cancer related lymphedema but are untested in populations with lymphatic filariasis (LF). This is a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data in a longitudinal study on asymptomatic, LF antigen-positive and -negative young people in Myanmar. Rapid field screening was used to identify antigen-positive cases and a group of antigen-negative controls of similar age and gender were invited to continue in the study. Tissue compressibility was assessed with three tissue tonometers, and free fluids were assessed using bio-impedance spectroscopy (BIS). Infection status was confirmed by Og4C3 antigen assay. At baseline (n = 98), antigen-positive cases had clinically relevant increases in tissue compressibility at the calf using a digital Indurometer (11.1%, p = 0.021), and in whole-leg free fluid using BIS (9.2%, p = 0.053). Regression analysis for moderating factors (age, gender, hydration) reinforced the between-infection group differences. Results demonstrate that sub-clinical changes associated with infection can be detected in asymptomatic cases. Further exploration of these low-cost devices in clinical and research settings on filariasis-related lymphedema are warranted.

Keywords: bio-impedance spectroscopy; lower extremity; lymphatic filariasis; lymphedema; neglected tropical disease; tissue tonometry.