Littoral Province, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and Department of Tropical Medicine, Center for International Community-Based Studies, Tulane University, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Douala, Cameroon
Potential diagnostic indicators of onchocerciasis (subcutaneous nodules, depigmentation or leopard skin, microfilaruria, diethylcarbamazine patch test positivity, excoriations, and pruritus) were evaluated in a rain forest region of southern Cameroon for usefulness in rapid assessment of onchocerciasis endemicity in communities. Thirty-two study villages were selected, representing high, intermediate, and low prevalence levels, and 846 adult male residents of these communities 20 or more years of age were examined according to a defined protocol. Skin snips (from each iliac crest) served as the reference standard. Skin snip positivity was 75.5%; the effect of age was minimal. Leopard skin and nodules showed the strongest correlation with both the skin snip prevalence and community microfilarial load, as reflected by the adult male study population. We selected ≥ 20% nodules or ≥ 20% leopard skin as the most appropriate local criteria for assigning a community to high priority for control, which corresponds to a ≥ 90% skin snip prevalence in adult males. While this criteria should not be applied to regions with savannah onchocerciasis, we believe the methodology can and should be used to determine appropriate diagnostic indicators for rapid assessment of Onchocerca volvulus endemicity in regions with different dynamics of transmission and clinical expression of disease.