Onchocerciasis in Colombia

Ocular Findings in the First Observed Focus

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  • Universidad del Valle, Departments of Ophthalmology and Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, Tulane Medical Center, Cali, Colombia
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Ophthalmic examinations were made on 292 inhabitants of an area in Colombia where a small focus of onchocerciasis was discovered. Ocular lesions were found in 15 (34.1%) of 44 persons with proven onchocerciasis; 1 had superficial punctate stromal keratitis, 4 had sclerosing keratitis, and 2 had active anterior uveitis, all of which were probably caused by the filarial infection. Five of these persons were blind and in three the blindness was apparently due to inflammatory lesions produced by the parasite. Microfilariae were observed in the anterior chamber of the eye in 5 persons. Of the 248 persons without onchocerciasis, 51 (20.6%) had ocular lesions and 15 (6.0%) were blind, trauma being the chief cause of blindness. On the basis of the small number of ocular lesions attributable to the parasite and the absence of severe onchocercal skin lesions, the infections in this Colombian focus seem relatively mild. This is apparently due to the low intensity of the infections as indicated by the small number of microfilariae in the skin and the small number of onchocercomata.