Ivermectin: Reduction in Prevalence and Infection Intensity of Onchocerca Volvulus Following Biannual Treatments in five Guatemalan Communities

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  • Department of Entomology, University of Arizona, Entomology Section, Department of Onchocerciasis (Robles Disease), SNEM, Ministry of Public Health, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Tucson, Arizona, Guatemala
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Residents of five hyperendemic communities located in the central focus of onchocerciasis in Guatemala were treated with ivermectin (Mectizan®) or placebo every six months for 30 months. The effects of treatment on prevalence and the intensity of skin infection (microfilarial skin density [MFD]) were evaluated. Significant and persistent reductions in both of these indices were achieved by coverage of 80.7% of the eligible populations. The highest proportionate reductions in both indicators of infection occurred after the first treatment, followed by more gradual decreases through the fourth treatment. In one community in which the mean coverage was 92.7%, prevalence decreased from 74.0% at pretreatment to 34.9% after four treatments, while the MFD decreased from 7.8 to 2.0; reductions of 52.8% and 74.3% from pretreatment values, respectively. In every ivermectin-treated community except one, in which drug acceptance was low, the mean community MFD values were reduced to the level associated with low infectiousness for the vector, Simulium ochraceum. Moreover, the category of MFD associated with high vector infectiousness was reduced at least ten-fold over the pretreatment level. One community had low participation during the first two treatments (32.8% and 22.7% of those eligible). This increased to 55.2% at the third treatment because of implementation of an educational program describing both the disease and the beneficial effects of ivermectin and because skin biopsies and nodulectomies were not performed. Secondary reaction rates for all communities were 29.5%, 9.9%, 10.3%, 8.2%, and 7.1% for the first through fifth treatments, respectively. Pruritus was the most common (34.0%) secondary reaction, followed by facial edema (31.8%). All reactions were classified as mild to moderate. Recommendations for mass distribution of ivermectin in Guatemala are given.