Sowda—Onchocerciasis in North Yemen: A Clinicopathologic Study of 18 Patients

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  • Department of Infectious Disease Pathology and the World Health Organization Reference Laboratory for Filarial Infections of Man, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, El Nasser Hospital, Division of Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases, World Health Organization, Washington, D.C. 20306, Switzerland
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Sowda is an unusual form of onchocerciasis in Yemenites that differs from African onchocerciasis. Clinical and pathological studies were performed on 18 patients in Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). Biopsies of skin and lymph nodes were taken, and then processed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C. The most striking clinical features were swollen, darkened, pruritic, papular skin changes that were usually limited to one leg, more rarely to one arm, and large soft regional lymph nodes. Dermal changes were deeper and more diffuse than in African onchocerciasis, with many large fibroblasts and plasma cells. Microfilariae of Onchocerca volvulus were much rarer in skin from Yemenites with sowda. When patients were treated with diethylcarbamazine, the dermatitis became suddenly worse as the microfilariae degenerated and provoked acute inflammation. The dermatitis decreased after several days of treatment. Enlarged lymph nodes from sowda have shown follicular hyperplasia, in contrast to follicular atrophy and perivascular fibrosis that are characteristic of lymph nodes from cases of African onchocerciasis. Cell-mediated and humoral immunity may be more active in sowda than in African onchocerciasis.

Author Notes

Present address: Office of Health Development Support Bureau, Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C. 20523.