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What is a Microfilaria Antigen test? 

Filariasis is a painful, disfiguring disease caused by thread-like roundworms called filariae. Some of the species of filariae that can cause this disease are Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori.

Commonly, this disease is detected by the presence of microfilaria - numerous microscopic worms produced by the adult filaria worms once it lodges inside the lymphatic system - in the body. However, low levels of microfilaria sometimes go unnoticed in lab tests, in such cases, a microfilaria antigen test is done to confirm the absence of filaria worms.

The microfilaria antigen is a protein that the filaria worms release into the bloodstream of the infected individual. Unlike the traditional methods for the diagnosis of filariasis, the antigen test can be performed during the night as well as during day time. However, this test does not confirm the presence of an active infection since the antigen would be found in the blood until there are any traces of dead microfilariae in your body.

  1. Why is a Microfilaria Antigen test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a Microfilaria Antigen test?
  3. How is a Microfilaria Antigen test performed?
  4. What do Microfilaria Antigen test results mean?

Your doctor will ask you to get this test done if he/she suspects that you have symptoms of filariasis. 

Most individuals with filariasis may show no symptoms at all. However, some people may present with the following symptoms:

  • Episodes of acute inflammation of lymphatic vessels which causes - 
  • Swollen arms and legs
  • Swelling of genitalia 
  • Pain in the affected areas
  • Abnormally thick skin with a warty appearance

Nothing special needs to be done before this test. However, tell your doctor if you are taking any medications or health supplements. 

If you are anxious about needles, please speak to your doctor or nurse so that they can make you feel relaxed before the test.

Microfilaria antigen test is performed on a blood sample that is obtained either by fingerprick or venipuncture - from a vein in your arm. 

After the test, you may get a temporary bruise at the needle insertion site - it is nothing to worry about. If you notice persistent discomfort, inform your doctor as soon as possible.

Normal results:

Normal test results will be stated as negative. This means that you may not have live adult worms in your system.

Abnormal results:

If the test result is stated as positive, it means that the microfilaria antigen was detected in your blood sample. Further test may be needed to identify the type of microfilariae.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Lymphatic filariasis
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Lymphatic filariasis
  3. Weil GJ et al., Trends in Parasitology; The ICT Filariasis Test: A rapid format antigen test for diagnosis of bancroftian filariasis. Parasitol Today. 1997. PMID 15275155.
  4. Cédric B. Chesnais et al. Measurement of Circulating Filarial Antigen Levels in Human Blood with a Point-of-Care Test Strip and a Portable Spectrodensitometer. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2016 Jun 1; 94(6): 1324–1329. PMID: 27114288.
  5. National Organisation of Rare Disorders [Internet]. Danbury, CT, U.S. Filariasis
  6. National Health Service [internet]. UK; Blood Tests
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