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The burden of mental health in lymphatic filariasis.


BACKGROUND: Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) afflict around one billion individuals in the poorest parts of the world with many more at risk. Lymphatic filariasis is one of the most prevalent of the infections and causes significant morbidity in those who suffer the clinical conditions, particularly lymphedema and hydrocele. Depressive illness has been recognised as a prevalent disability in those with the disease because of the stigmatising nature of the condition. No estimates of the burden of depressive illness of any neglected tropical disease have been undertaken to date despite the recognition that such diseases have major consequences for mental health not only for patients but also their caregivers.

METHODS: We developed a mathematical model to calculate the burden of Disability- Adjusted Life Years (DALY) attributable to depressive illness in lymphatic filariasis and that of their caregivers using standard methods for calculating DALYs. Estimates of numbers with clinical disease was based on published estimates in 2012 and the numbers with depressive illness from the available literature.

RESULTS: We calculated that the burden of depressive illness in filariasis patients was 5.09 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and 229,537 DALYs attributable to their caregivers. These figures are around twice that of 2.78 million DALYs attributed to filariasis by the Global Burden of Disease study of 2010.

CONCLUSIONS: Lymphatic filariasis and other neglected tropical diseases, notably Buruli Ulcer, cutaneous leishmaniasis, leprosy, yaws, onchocerciasis and trachoma cause significant co morbidity associated with mental illness in patients. Studies to assess the prevalence of the burden of this co-morbidity should be incorporated into any future assessment of the Global Burden of neglected tropical diseases. The prevalence of depressive illness in caregivers who support those who suffer from these conditions is required. Such assessments are critical for neglected tropical diseases which have such a huge global prevalence and thus will contribute a significant burden of co-morbidity attributable to mental illness.

More information

Journal Article
Ton TG N
Mackenzie C
Molyneux DH
Year of Publication
Infectious diseases of poverty
June 2015
Number of Pages
p. 34
ISSN Number
Alternate Journal
Infect Dis Poverty
Publication Language