Background: Anti-Wolbachia treatment with doxycycline is effective in sterilising and killing adult Onchocerca volvulus nematodes, proving superior to ivermectin and of great potential as an alternative approach for the treatment and control of onchocerciasis, particularly in areas of Loa loa co-endemicity. Nevertheless, the length of the required treatment poses potential logistical problems and risk of poor compliance, raising a barrier to the use of doxycycline in Mass Drug Administration (MDA) strategies. In 2007 and 2008 a feasibility trial of community-directed treatment with doxycycline was carried out in two health districts in Cameroon, co-endemic for O. volvulus and L. loa. With 17,519 eligible subjects, the therapeutic coverage was 73.8% with 97.5% compliance, encouraging the feasibility of using doxycycline community-directed delivery in restricted populations of this size. The current study evaluated the effectiveness of this community-directed delivery of doxycycline four years after delivery.
Findings: Infection with O. volvulus was evaluated by skin biopsy and nodule palpation. Of the 507 subjects recruited, 375 had completed the treatment with doxycycline followed by one or two rounds of annual ivermectin MDA and 132 received one or two rounds of annual ivermectin MDA alone. Statistically significant lower microfilarial prevalence (17.0% [doxycycline plus ivermectin group], 27.0% [ivermectin only group], p = 0.014) and load (p = 0.012) were found in people that had received doxycycline followed by ivermectin compared to those who received ivermectin only.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the long-term effectiveness of doxycycline treatment delivered with a community-directed strategy even when evaluated four years after delivery in an area of ongoing transmission. This finding shows that a multi-week course of treatment is not a barrier to community-delivery of MDA in restricted populations of this size and supports its implementation to compliment existing control strategies for onchocerciasis, where needed.