Medical research

A possible cure for river blindness and elephantiasis

An international team of researchers has found what might be a cure for river blindness and elephantiasis. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes their search for a drug ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

New test will combat major cause of preventable blindness in Africa

A new test will accelerate global progress toward eliminating onchocerciasis, a leading cause of preventable blindness in Africa. PATH, an international nonprofit health organization, today announced the availability of the ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Study discloses new test for river blindness infection

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a telltale molecular marker for Onchocerciasis or "river blindness," a parasitic infection that affects tens of millions of people in Africa, Latin America and ...


Onchocerciasis ( /ˈɒŋkɵsɜrˈsaɪ.əsɨs/ or /ˈɒŋkɵsɜrˈkaɪ.əsɨs/), also known as river blindness and Robles' disease, is a parasitic disease caused by infection by Onchocerca volvulus, a nematode (roundworm). Onchocerciasis is the world's second-leading infectious cause of blindness. It is not the nematode, but its endosymbiont, Wolbachia pipientis, that causes the severe inflammatory response that leaves many blind. The parasite is transmitted to humans through the bite of a black fly of the genus Simulium. The larval nematodes spread throughout the body. When the worms die, their Wolbachia symbionts are released, triggering a host immune system response that can cause severe itching, and can destroy optical tissue in the eye.

The vast majority of infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, although cases have also been reported in Yemen and isolated areas of Central and South America. An estimated 18 million people suffer from onchocerciasis, with approximately 270,000 cases of blindness related to the infection.

In 1915, Dr. Rodolfo Robles Valverde's study on patients with river blindness in Guatemala led to the discovery that the disease is caused by filaria of O. volvulus, and sheds light on the life cycle and transmission of the parasite. Using case studies of coffee plantation workers in Guatemala, Robles hypothesized the vector of the disease is a day-biting insect, and more specifically, two anthropophilic species of Simulium flies found in the endemic areas. He published his findings on a “new disease” from Guatemala associated with subcutaneous nodules, anterior ocular (eye) lesions, dermatitis, and microfilariae in 1917.

Treatment may involve the use of the drug ivermectin. For best effect, entire communities are treated at the same time. A single dose may kill first-stage larvae (microfilariae) in infected people, and it prevents transmission for many months in the remaining population. Other drugs are also available, including the tetracycline-class antibiotic doxycycline, which kills the Wolbachia and renders the female nematodes sterile. The removal of the palpable nodules is common in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA