An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.
The findings, which detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease, are published March 31st in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.
"In a few short years--with continued hard work and increased political will--river blindness will never threaten the Americas again," said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center's River Blindness Program. "Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease."
To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin--also known as Mectizan® donated by Merck & Co., Inc.
Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.
Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000404 (link will go live upon embargo lift)
CITATION: Gonzalez RJ, Cruz-Ortiz N, Rizzo N, Richards J, Zea-Flores G, et al. (2009) Successful Interruption of Transmission of Onchocerca volvulus in the Escuintla-Guatemala Focus, Guatemala. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(3): e404. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000404
Arleen Porcell-Pharr, MS, APR
Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
The Carter Center
This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The release is provided by the article authors and/or their institutions. Any opinions expressed in these releases or articles are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.
About PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (http://www.plosntds.org/) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal devoted to the pathology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and control of the neglected tropical diseases, as well as public policy relevant to this group of diseases. All works published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License, and copyright is retained by the authors.
About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.