Public Release: 

The World Bank Group and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases launch APOC collection

PLOS

May 11, 2015--On May 14, 2015, the World Bank Group and PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases will launch a collection of peer-reviewed articles on the history and success of the control of river blindness (onchocerciasis) in Africa that started with the Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP) in 1974 and transitioned into the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) in 1995.

OCP and APOC have been so successful that, today, blindness caused by onchocerciasis is no longer a public health problem in most of the countries. The Partnership now reaches more than 100 million people annually across Africa to control the disease.

The publication of the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases collection, titled "40 Years of the APOC Partnership," will coincide with the 41st anniversary of one of the most successful Private-Public-Partnership for health in Africa. This partnership is unique in the involvement of a broad range of financial, scientific and operational partners, with crucial roles played by a private sector drug donation and by a network of 15 NGOs.

River blindness is endemic in 31 African countries, 6 countries in Latin America and in Yemen. It is a debilitating disease that causes disfiguring skin disease, severe itching and eventual blindness among infected people. The flies that spread the disease breed in fast-flowing water, hence the name river blindness. As a result, vast tracts of fertile land fed by rivers were abandoned for drier areas free of black flies.

In 1987, Merck (known as MSD outside the United States) initiated a program to donate a drug, ivermectin (Mectizan), which could be safely and effectively distributed annually on a massive scale to control the disease. OCP began distributing the drug in addition to larviciding, which controlled river blindness in 11 West African countries. After several decades of larviciding and treatment with ivermectin, today, at least 25 million hectares of land are free of river blindness, restoring livelihoods and boosting food security for almost 17 million people.

In 1995, a larger partnership was formed to fight river blindness in the remaining 20 endemic countries in Africa. APOC is implemented by the World Health Organization, with fiscal management by the World Bank Group along with support from African ministries of health, the private sector, the donor community, and NGOs.

Today the enormous success of OCP and APOC in reaching millions of people through innovative distribution strategies has paved the way for elimination of the disease worldwide.

The PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases collection describes all facets of the success leading to the effective control of river blindness that include partnerships, funding, distribution strategies, monitoring and evaluation, lessons learned, and advocacy. Over the past two decades, these factors have been replicated and other companies have initiated donation programs of drugs to support other control and elimination efforts for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Today, billions are treated worldwide for NTDs and even larger partnerships have formed to improve collaboration and to ensure that the world's poorest populations have access to medicines for NTDs and strengthened health systems to improve health and fight poverty.

###

Please contact plosntds@plos.org if you would like more information about our content and specific topics of interest.

All works published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases are open access, which means that everything is immediately and freely available. Use this URL in your coverage to provide readers access to the paper upon publication: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal. pntd.0003562 (Link goes live upon article publication)

Contact:
The World Bank Group: Andy Chi Tembon, (+1) 202 458 4879, Atembon@worldbank.org
The African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC): Jean-Baptiste Roungou, (+226) 50 34 22 77, Roungouj@who.int
The World Bank Group: Melanie Mayhew, (+1) 202-459-7115, mmayhew1@worldbankgroup.org

About PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 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.

Media Permissions

PLOS Journals publish under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits free reuse of all materials published with the article, so long as the work is cited (e.g., Kaltenbach LS et al. (2007) Huntington Interacting Proteins Are Genetic Modifiers of Neurodegeneration. PLOS Genet 3(5): e82. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030082). No prior permission is required from the authors or publisher. For queries about the license, please contact the relative journal contact indicated here: http://www.plos.org/journals/embargopolicy.php

Disclaimer: 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.