Research Article

Re-assessing the global prevalence and distribution of lymphatic filariasis

E. Michaela1, D. A. P. Bundya2 and B. T. Grenfella1

a1 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK

a2 Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK


This paper estimates the global burden of lymphatic filariasis based on a review of the published literature on infection and disease surveys. A method for aggregating and projecting prevalence data from individual studies to national, regional and global levels, which also facilitates the estimation of gender and age-specific burdens, is presented. The method weights in favour of the larger, and hence presumbably more reliable, studies and relies on estimated empirical relationships between gender, age, infection and disease in order to correct studies with incomplete data. The results presented here suggest that although the overall prevalence of filariasis cases is 2·0% globally (approximately totalling 119 million cases), the disease continues to be of considerable local importance, particularly in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates by age and gender clearly show that, unlike other helminth infections, filariasis is mainly a disease of the adult and older age-classes and appears to be more prevalent in males. This work suggests that the derivation of more accurate estimates of the burden of filariasis will require a better understanding of both the epidemiology and the spatial aspects of infection and disease. It also suggests that filariasis is preventable based on a geographically targeted strategy for control.

(Received September 11 1995)

(Revised November 07 1995)

(Accepted November 07 1995)