The World Health Organization has targeted lymphatic filariasis (LF) for elimination as a public health problem and recommends, among other measures, post-elimination surveillance of LF. The identification of sensitive and specific surveillance tools is therefore a research priority. The Wuchereria bancrofti-specific antigen Wb123-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Wb123 ELISA) detects antibodies to the recombinant Wb123 antigen of W. bancrofti and may be useful as a surveillance tool for LF. Six years after stopping mass drug administration to eliminate LF and recording successful results on two post-treatment transmission assessment surveys, a study was conducted in Togo aimed at helping to identify the role of the Wb123 ELISA in post-validation surveillance of LF.
This was a cross-sectional study in eight previously LF-endemic districts and one non-endemic district in Togo. In each sub-district of these nine districts, two schools were selected and 15 children aged 6 to 9 years old at each school provided finger-stick blood for testing for antibodies to Wb123 using the Filaria Detect™ IgG4 ELISA kit® (InBios, International, Inc., Seattle, WA, USA).
A total of 2654 children aged 6 to 9 years old were tested in 134 schools in the nine districts. Overall, 4.7% (126/2654) children tested positive for antibodies to the Wb123 antigen of W. bancrofti. The prevalence of Wb123 antibodies varied across the eight previously endemic LF districts, from 1.56 to 6.62%. The highest prevalence, 6.99%, was found in the non-endemic district, but this was not significantly different from the average of all the LF districts (4.49%, P = 0.062).
The Wb123 ELISA was positive in 4.7% of Togolese school-age children who were almost certainly unexposed to LF. This apparent lack of specificity in the Togo context makes it difficult to establish a seroprevalence threshold that could serve to signal LF resurgence in the country, precluding the use of this test for post-validation surveillance in Togo. There remains a need to develop a useful and reliable test for post-elimination surveillance for LF in humans.
Innovative approach to exploit ongoing STH- SCH survey to conduct integrated surveillance for LF and oncho that will serve as a model for other programs