A Comparison of Skin Changes caused by Onchocerciasis and Aging

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  • The Liberian Institute of the American Foundation for Tropical Medicine, Inc., Harbel,Liberia, West Africa


Forty-five Africans with Onchocerca volvulus infection and ten non-infected controls were examined for histological changes in the skin. Both series included young people and persons of advanced age. The following was found: In noninfected subjects, advanced age is associated with damage and a reduction of the fine elastic fibers of the papillary layer, and with a shortening and thickening of the fibers of the reticular layer which are, however, less marked. The degree of the reduction increases with age.

A similar reduction of the fine elastic fibers is caused by O. volvulus infections already in young people. It increases with the intensity and the duration of the infection.

A small number of young non-infected and apparently healthy people likewise showed damage and a reduction of the elastic fibers without any obvious cause.

One may therefore assume that different causes, among them advanced age and infection with O. volvulus, produce in varying degree a destruction and reduction of the fine elastic fibers in the papillary layer of the skin.