To provide quantitative information on the epidemiology of infection with Onchocerca volvulus and to define the association between indicators of infection and onchocercal eye disease, skin snips were obtained and skin and ocular examinations were performed on 892 persons living on seven Guatemalan coffee plantations. Skin-snip positivity and the density of microfilariae in the skin increased with age, reaching highest levels at 15–19 years, and both were greater in males than females. A history of nodulectomy was given by 67% of long-term residents and this percentage also increased with age. Over 90% of skin-snip positive subjects and 39% of skin-snip negative subjects had previous or present nodules. Microfilariae were detected in the cornea of 35.1% and in the anterior chamber of 18.9% of all persons examined and the frequencies increased with age, reaching peak levels at 10–19 years. Onchocercal eye lesions were found in 52 persons, causing bilateral blindness in six. Skin-snip positivity, microfilarial skin density, number of nodules, eye infection, and onchocercal eye lesions all correlated significantly with each other. Onchocercal blindness in one or both eyes was found only on fincas with a high prevalence (>80%) and intensity of infection (>22 microfilariae/mg skin).
Present address: Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.
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Present address: Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit/Guatemala, % American Embassy—Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala, C.A.