Progress towards the elimination of onchocerciasis as a public-health problem in Uganda: opportunities, challenges and the way forward

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2007 Jun;101(4):323-33. doi: 10.1179/136485907X176355.


The national onchocerciasis-control programme in Uganda successfully eliminated Simulium neavei s.s. from the Itwara focus in 1997, by monthly ground spraying with larvicidal temophos (Abate). Since then, no vectors have been caught in the main Itwara focus or two secondary foci in the same area. After 4 years of intervention, S. neavei s.s. has also been nearly eliminated from the Mpamba-Nkusi focus, and the elimination of this vector from two more foci (West Nile and Wambabya-Rwamarongo) appears quite feasible. There are, however, four isolated foci in Uganda (Budongo, Kashoya-Kitomi, Mount Elgon and Kigezi-Bwindi) which are probably too large and inaccessible to make the elimination of S. neavei s.s. by ground spraying a realistic possibility. Encouragingly, >70% of Ugandans have received an annual dose of ivermectin for at least 10 years, and the national programme of community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) is thought to be progressing towards sustainability. Despite the good treatment coverages, however, many potential vectors are still found infected with Onchocerca volvulus and many Ugandans have O. volvulus in their skin. There is now evidence that adult O. volvulus can be eliminated, within a period of about 6 years, through semiannual treatment with ivermectin. Together, the isolated foci where vector elimination is not considered feasible have a human population of about 700,000, most of whom (595,000) are eligible to receive ivermectin treatment. The estimated cost of each treatment, via the Ugandan CDTI, is U.S.$0.78 if the salaries of the government-employed personnel and the working time lost by the volunteers who act as community-directed drug distributors (CDD) are taken into account. If these 'expenses' are ignored, however, the cost falls to just U.S.$0.17/treatment, and the total costs for the four isolated foci where vector control is not likely to be successful become about U.S.$101,150/year for annual treatment (for an indefinite period of time) or approximately U.S.$202,300/year for semi-annual treatment (for the 6 years needed to eliminate adult O. volvulus), which would be the more cost-effective option. With the necessary financial support and the continued free supply of ivermectin from Merck, the national onchocerciasis-control programme could eliminate human onchocerciasis from Uganda, through a combination of semi-annual treatment with ivermectin in the isolated foci where S. neavei s.s. elimination is not feasible, and vector elimination in all the other foci.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiparasitic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Insect Control / methods*
  • Ivermectin / therapeutic use*
  • Onchocerciasis / epidemiology
  • Onchocerciasis / prevention & control*
  • Simuliidae*
  • Uganda / epidemiology


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Ivermectin