Lymphatic filariasis elimination endgame in an urban Indian setting: the roles of surveillance and residual microfilaremia after mass drug administration

18 May 2021
Anjali Modi, Keshav G. Vaishnav, Kailash Kothiya & Neal Alexander


To secure the gains of lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination programs, attention is needed to the ‘residual microfilaremia phase’, in which high-risk populations may be crucial. The present study documents the impact of mass drug administration (MDA) in the urban Indian setting of Surat City, with high rates of in-migration.


Epidemiological assessment included National Filaria Control Program (NFCP) and World Health Organization recommended routine and pre-MDA microfilaremia surveys respectively. Routine filaria surveys were conducted around the year in approximately 2000–4000 people per month, while pre-MDA surveys were carried out annually among approximately 4000 people from four fixed and four random sites. In 2016, Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS) was done in primary school children. The outcomes were microfilaremia (Mf) and antigen prevalence; more specifically, microfilaremia according to place of birth, in pre-MDA and routine night blood smears (NBS) collected from 2008 to 2015. Prevalence ratios and confidence intervals were calculated.


A total of 25 480 pre-MDA and 306 198 routine NBS were examined during the study. In 2008, the Mf prevalence in the routine survey was 63/18 814 (0.33%), declining to 23/39 717 (0.06%) in 2016. Pre-MDA surveys showed a similar decrease from 47/4184 (1.1%) in 2008 to 12/4042 (0.3%) in 2015. In those born outside Surat, microfilaremia decreased below transmission thresholds, but remained more than treble that of the remainder of the population, in both the pre-MDA surveys [prevalence ratio: 3.17, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.15–8.72], and the routine surveys (3.31, 95% CI: 1.47–7.48). Though the TAS results indicated that MDA endpoints had been reached, sub-group analysis identified that 90% of antigenemic children were from families of high-risk groups.


Extensive long-term epidemiological monitoring suggests that all the urban population, including high-risk groups, have benefitted from the ELF program. To prevent re-establishment of infection in large urban areas with unsanitary conditions conducive to filarial vector breeding, there is need to identify residual microfilaremia by customized surveys in addition to pre-MDA monitoring and TAS. The present findings can be used to develop strategies to prioritize screening, surveillance and plan treatment of high-risk groups after achieving MDA endpoints.