Ivermectin for onchocercal eye disease (river blindness)

Hode Internal Medicine, Texas, USA. .
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 6.03). 08/2012; 8(8):CD002219. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002219.pub2
Source: PubMed


It is believed that ivermectin (a microfilaricide) could prevent blindness due to onchocerciasis. However, when given to everyone in communities where onchocerciasis is common, the effects of ivermectin on lesions affecting the eye are uncertain and data on whether the drug prevents visual loss are unclear.
The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of ivermectin in preventing visual impairment and visual field loss in onchocercal eye disease. The secondary aim was to assess the effects of ivermectin on lesions affecting the eye in onchocerciasis.
We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 3), MEDLINE (January 1950 to April 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to April 2012), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (, ( and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) ( We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 2 April 2012.
We included randomised controlled trials with at least one year of follow-up comparing ivermectin with placebo or no treatment. Participants in the trials were people normally resident in endemic onchocercal communities with or without one or more characteristic signs of ocular onchocerciasis.
Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. We contacted study authors for additional information. As trials varied in design and setting, we were unable to perform a meta-analysis.
The review included four trials: two small studies (n = 398) in which people with onchocercal infection were given one dose of ivermectin or placebo and followed up for one year; and two larger community-based studies (n = 4941) whereby all individuals in selected communities were treated every six or 12 months with ivermectin or placebo, whether or not they were infected, and followed for two to three years. The studies provide evidence that treating people who have onchocerciasis with ivermectin reduces the number of microfilariae in their skin and eye(s) and reduces the number of punctate opacities. There was weaker evidence that ivermectin reduced the risk of chorioretinitis. The studies were too small and of too short a duration to provide evidence for an effect on sclerosing keratitis, iridocyclitis, optic nerve disease or visual loss. One community-based study in communities mesoendemic for the savannah strain of O.volvulus provided evidence that annual mass treatment with ivermectin reduces the risk of new cases of optic nerve disease and visual field loss. The other community-based study of mass biannual treatment of ivermectin in communities affected by the forest strain of O.volvulus demonstrated reductions in microfilarial load, punctate keratitis and iridocyclitis but not sclerosing keratitis, chorioretinitis, optic atrophy or visual impairment. The study was underpowered to estimate the effect of ivermectin on visual impairment and other less frequent clinical signs. The studies included in this review reported some adverse effects, in particular an increased risk of postural hypotension in people treated with ivermectin.
The lack of evidence for prevention of visual impairment and blindness should not be interpreted to mean that ivermectin is not effective, however, clearly this is a key question that remains unanswered. The main evidence for a protective effect of mass treatment with ivermectin on visual field loss and optic nerve disease comes from communities mesoendemic for the savannah strain of O.volvulus. Whether these findings can be applied to communities with different endemicity and affected by the forest strain is unclear. Serious adverse effects were rarely reported. None of the studies, however, were conducted in areas where people are infected with Loa loa (loiasis).

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    • "The number of individuals with visual impairment or low vision (defined as corrected visual acuity of <18/60 and ≥3/60 in the better eye [47]) caused by onchocerciasis was estimated using a published ratio of 1.78 visual impairment to blindness [47]. Prevalent blindness and visual impairment cases were assumed to be irreversible conditions unresponsive to ivermectin treatment [49], which does not reverse established ocular sequelae (also including sclerosing keratitis and optic nerve atrophy). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) has refocused its goals on the elimination of infection where possible, seemingly achievable by 15–17 years of annual mass distribution of ivermectin in some African foci. Previously, APOC had focused on the elimination of onchocerciasis as a public health problem. Timeframes have been set by the World Health Organization, the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases and the World Bank to achieve these goals by 2020–2025. Methods A novel mathematical model of the dynamics of onchocercal disease is presented which links documented associations between Onchocerca volvulus infection and the prevalence and incidence of morbidity and mortality to model outputs from our host age- and sex-structured onchocerciasis transmission framework (EpiOncho). The model is calibrated for African savannah settings, and used to assess the impact of long-term annual mass administration of ivermectin on infection and ocular and skin disease and to explore how this depends on epidemiological and programmatic variables. Results Current onchocerciasis disease projections, which do not account for excess mortality of sighted individuals with heavy microfilarial loads, underestimate disease burden. Long-term annual ivermectin treatment is highly effective at reducing both the morbidity and mortality associated with onchocerciasis, and this result is not greatly influenced by treatment coverage and compliance. By contrast, impact on microfilarial prevalence and intensity is highly dependent on baseline endemicity, treatment coverage and systematic non-compliance. Conclusions The goals of eliminating morbidity and infection with ivermectin alone are distinctly influenced by epidemiological and programmatic factors. Whilst the former goal is most certainly achievable, reaching the latter will strongly depend on initial endemicity (the higher the endemicity, the greater the magnitude of inter-treatment transmission), advising caution when generalising the applicability of successful elimination outcomes to other areas. The proportion of systematic non-compliers will become far more influential in terms of overall success in achieving elimination goals.
    Parasites & Vectors 05/2014; 7(1):241. DOI:10.1186/1756-3305-7-241 · 3.43 Impact Factor
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    • "(OR = 1.91, 95% CL = 1.59À2.28). Other parasites that may impact on vision include Plasmodium falciparum, Taenia solium , Echinococcus granulosus and Onchocerca volvulus (Benazzou et al., 2010; Ziaei et al., 2011; Ejere et al., 2012; Postels et al., 2013). 4.3. "
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    ABSTRACT: Toxocariasis, caused by infection with larvae of Toxocara canis, and to a lesser extent by Toxocara cati and other ascaridoid species, manifests in humans in a range of clinical syndromes. These include visceral and ocular larva migrans (VLM and OLM, respectively), neurotoxocariasis (NT) and covert or common toxocariasis (CT). Toxocara canis is one of the most widespread public health and economically important zoonotic parasitic infections humans share with dogs, cats and wild canids, particularly foxes. This neglected disease has been shown through seroprevalence studies to be especially prevalent among children from socio-economically disadvantaged populations both in the tropics and sub-tropics and in industrialized nations. Human infection occurs by the accidental ingestion of embryonated eggs or larvae from a range of wild and domestic paratenic hosts. Most infections remain asymptomatic. Clinically overt infections may go undiagnosed, as diagnostic tests are expensive and can require serological, molecular and/or imaging tests, which may not be affordable or available. Treatment in humans varies according to symptoms and location of the larvae. Anthelmintics, including albendazole, thiabendazole and mebendazole may be given together with anti-inflammatory corticosteroids. The development of molecular tools should lead to new and improved strategies for the treatment, diagnosis and control of toxocariasis and the role of other ascaridoid species in the epidemiology of Toxocara spp. Molecular technologies may also help to reveal the public health importance of T. canis, providing new evidence to support the implementation of national control initiatives which have yet to be developed for Toxocara spp. A number of countries have implemented reproductive control programs in owned and stray dogs to reduce the number of young dogs in the population. These programs would positively impact upon T. canis transmission since the parasite is most fecund and prevalent in puppies. Other control measures for T. canis include the regular and frequent anthelmintic treatment of dogs and cats, starting at an early age, education and enforcement of laws for the disposal of canine faeces, dog legislation and personal hygiene. The existence of wild definitive and paratenic hosts complicates the control of T. canis. Increasing human and dog populations, population movements and climate change will all serve to increase the importance of this zoonosis. This review examines the transmission, diagnosis and clinical syndromes of toxocariasis, its public health importance, epidemiology, control and current research needs.
    International journal for parasitology 08/2013; 43(12-13). DOI:10.1016/j.ijpara.2013.07.004 · 3.87 Impact Factor
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    • "The incidence of optic neuritis is also significantly reduced.37,99 However, there is controversy over the impact on visual acuity, with a Cochrane review suggesting that there is no effect on this parameter.100 This seems consistent with the findings of Kennedy et al who followed mectizan users for five years and found no changes in the prevalence of main ocular lesions in this cohort.101 "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper reviews the current management of onchocerciasis and its future prospects. Onchocerciasis is a disease affecting millions of people in Africa, South and Central America, and Yemen. It is spread by the blackfly as a vector and caused by the filarial nematode, Onchocerca volvulus. A serious attempt was made by the Onchocerciasis Control Program between 1975 and 2002 to eliminate the vector in eleven of the endemic countries in West Africa, and with remarkable success. Formerly, the treatment was with diethyl carbamazine for the microfilaria and suramin for the adult worm. These drugs are now known to be toxic and unsuitable for mass distribution. In particular, they precipitate optic nerve disease. With the discovery of ivermectin, a much safer microfilaricide, and the decision of Merck to distribute the drug free of charge for as long as needed, the strategy of control switched to mass drug administration through community-directed treatment with ivermectin. So far, millions have received this annual or biannual treatment through the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control and the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas. However, the problem with ivermectin is that it is a monotherapy microfilaricide which has limited effect on the adult worm, and thus will need to be continued for the life span of the adult worm, which may last up to 15 years. There are also early reports of resistance. Serious encephalopathy and death may occur when ivermectin is used in subjects heavily infested with loiasis. It seems unlikely that a break in transmission will occur with community-directed treatment with ivermectin in Africa because of population migrations and the highly efficient vector, but in the Americas some countries such as Columbia and the Oaxaca focus in Mexico have reported eradication. Vector control is only now applicable in selected situations, and particularly to control the nuisance value of the blackfly. Trials are ongoing for alternatives to ivermectin. Candidate drugs include moxidectin, a macrofilaricide, doxycycline which targets the Wolbachia endosymbiont, and flubendazole, which shows promise with the newer oral cyclodextrin formulation.
    Clinical Ophthalmology 10/2011; 5:1479-91. DOI:10.2147/OPTH.S8372 · 0.76 Impact Factor
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