Progress toward elimination of onchocerciasis in the Americas - 1993-2012

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2013 May 24;62(20):405-8.


Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, transmitted to humans by the bite of infected black flies of the genus Simulium, and is characterized by chronic skin disease, severe itching, and eye lesions that can progress to complete blindness. Currently, among approximately 123 million persons at risk for infection in 38 endemic countries, at least 25.7 million are infected, and 1 million are blinded or have severe visual impairment. Periodic, communitywide mass drug administration (MDA) with ivermectin (Mectizan, Merck) prevents eye and skin disease and might interrupt transmission of the infection, depending on the coverage, duration, and frequency of MDA. The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) was launched in response to a 1991 resolution of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) calling for the elimination of onchocerciasis from the Americas. By the end of 2012, transmission of the infection, judged by surveys following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, had been interrupted or eliminated in four of the six endemic countries in the WHO Americas Region. Thus, in 2013, only 4% (23,378) of the 560,911 persons originally at risk in the Americas will be under ivermectin MDA. Active transmission currently is limited to two foci among Yanomami indigenes in adjacent border areas of Venezuela and Brazil.

MeSH terms

  • Antiparasitic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Guatemala / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Ivermectin / therapeutic use
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Onchocerciasis, Ocular / drug therapy
  • Onchocerciasis, Ocular / epidemiology
  • Onchocerciasis, Ocular / prevention & control*
  • South America / epidemiology


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Ivermectin