To assess the significance of lymphatic filariasis for the development of chronic genital manifestations and for reproductive health in women, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 2 villages in north-eastern Tanzania including interview and gynaecological examination of adult women, focusing primarily on reproductive history and genital health. In a population of 2165 residents, prevalence of Wuchereria bancrofti microfilaraemia was 28%, and geometric mean intensity of microfilariae (mf) was 722 mf/mL. Leg lymphoedema (elephantiasis) was present in 4.2% of adults aged > or = 15 years, and hydrocoele in 26.5% of adult males. Five hundred and thirty women completed an interview, and 404 of these completed a gynaecological examination. Most women were Muslims (72%), polygamy was common (29%), and 49% of women had undergone circumcision (clitoridectomy). Presence of microfilaraemia did not influence fertility or fertility-related variables including age at menarche, parity, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, Caesarean section and premature labour, nor presence of primary or secondary infertility. Mf status was strongly correlated with abnormal menstruation pattern in the 30+ years age-group (P = 0.001), but not in the < 30 years age-group. Cervical, vaginal and vulval pathology was unrelated to mf status. Two women, aged 46 and 77 years, had vulval oedema of probable filarial origin, both were mf negative. Overall, microfilaraemia appeared to have no influence on genital disease or reproductive health, and chronic manifestations of lymphatic filariasis of the genitals does not appear to be a substantial problem in women.
Keywords: Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Animals; Cross-Sectional Studies; Endemic Diseases; Female; Filariasis; Genital Diseases, Female; Humans; Infertility, Female; Middle Aged; Reproductive History; Tanzania; Wuchereria bancrofti