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Elimination of onchocerciasis from Colombia: first proof of concept of river blindness elimination in the world

Nicholls, R.én.S.; Duque, S.ía.; Olaya, L.A.; López, M.C.; Sánchez, S.B.; Morales, A.L.ía.; Palma, G.I.és.

Parasites and Vectors 11(1): 237

2018


ISSN/ISBN: 1756-3305
PMID: 29642939
DOI: 10.1186/s13071-018-2821-9
Accession: 061105267

Onchocerciasis is a chronic parasitic infection originally endemic in 13 discrete regional foci distributed among six countries of Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela). In Colombia, this disease was discovered in 1965 in the Pacific Coast of the country. The National Onchocerciasis Elimination Program was established in 1993 with the aim of eliminating disease morbidity and infection transmission. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) verified Colombia as free of onchocerciasis, becoming the first country in the world to reach such a goal. This report provides the empirical evidence of the elimination of Onchocerca volvulus transmission by Simulium exiguum (s.l.) after 12 years of 6-monthly mass drug administration of Mectizan® (ivermectin) to all the eligible residents living in this endemic area. From 1996 onwards, a biannual community-based mass ivermectin administration programme was implemented, complemented by health education and community participation. In-depth parasitological, serological and entomological surveys were conducted periodically between 1998 and 2007 to evaluate the impact of ivermectin treatment according to the 2001 WHO guidelines. When the interruption of parasite transmission was demonstrated, the drug distribution ceased and a three-year post-treatment surveillance (PTS) period (2008-2010) was initiated. After 23 rounds of treatment, parasitological and ophthalmological assessments showed absence of microfilariae in skin and anterior chamber of the eyes. Serological tests proved lack of antibodies against O. volvulus in children under 10 years-old. A total of 10,500 S. exiguum flies tested by PCR had no L3 infection (infectivity rate = 0.0095%; 95% CI: 0.0029-0.049) during 2004, indicating interruption of parasite transmission. However, biannual ivermectin treatments continued until 2007 followed by a 3-year PTS period at the end of which 13,481 flies were analyzed and no infective flies were found (infectivity rate = 0%; 95% CI: 0.0-0.014). These results fulfilled the WHO criteria for onchocerciasis elimination. Consequently, in 2013 Colombia was verified as free of onchocerciasis, demonstrating that elimination of this neglected tropical disease is an achievable goal and paving the way for an elimination agenda to be followed by other endemic countries in Latin America and Africa.

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