Background. The familial recurrence risk of lymphatic filariasis (LF) is unknown. This case study aimed to evaluate the familial susceptibility to infection with Wuchereria bancrofti and to microfilaremia in a village of the Republic of Congo.
Methods. The heritability and intrafamilial correlation coefficients were assessed for both W. bancrofti infection and microfilaremia by controlling for individual risk factors, environmental influence, and household effects.
Results. Pedigree charts were constructed for 829 individuals, including 143 individuals with a diagnosis of W. bancrofti circulating filarial antigens (CFAs) and 44 who also had microfilariae (MF). There was no intrafamilial correlation regarding CFA levels. However, the presence of MF (ρ = 0.45) and microfilarial density (ρ = 0.44) were significantly correlated among parent-offspring pairs. Heritability estimates for CFA positivity and intensity were 0.23 and 0.18, respectively. Heritability estimates were high for microfilarial positivity (h2 = 0.74) and microfilarial density traits (h2 = 0.81).
Conclusions. Our study suggests that the acquisition of LF is mainly driven by environmental factors and habits and that genetic factors are moderately involved in the regulation of infection. By contrast, genetic factors play a major role in both the presence and intensity of microfilaremia.