The broad-spectrum antiparasitic drug ivermectin was licensed for use against onchocerciasis in 1987, yet the mechanisms by which it exerts a fast decrease and long-lasting suppression of Onchocerca volvulus microfilaridermia, and inhibition of microfilarial release by female worms remain largely unknown. A better understanding of the effects of ivermectin on O volvulus microfilariae and macrofilariae is crucial to improve our ability to predict the long-term effect of treatment. We did a systematic review of individual and population-based ivermectin trials to investigate the temporal dynamics of the drug's microfilaricidal and embryostatic efficacy after administration of a single, standard dose (150 microg/kg). Meta-analyses on data from 26 microfilarial and 15 macrofilarial studies were linked by a mathematical model describing the dynamics of potentially fertile female parasites to skin microfilariae. The model predicts that after treatment, microfilaridermia would be reduced by half after 24 h, by 85% after 72 h, by 94% after 1 week, and by 98-99% after 1-2 months, the latter also corresponding to the time when the fraction of females harbouring live microfilariae is at its lowest (reduced by around 70% from its original value). Our results provide a baseline microfilarial skin repopulation curve against which to compare studies done after long-term treatment.