Background: Recent reports of transmission interruption of Onchocerca volvulus, the causing agent of river blindness, in former endemic foci in the Americas, and more recently in West and East Africa, raise the question whether elimination of this debilitating disease is underway after long-term treatment of the population at risk with ivermectin. The situation in Central Africa has not yet been clearly assessed.
Methods and findings: Entomologic data from two former endemic river basins in North Cameroon were generated over a period of 43 and 48 months to follow-up transmission levels in areas under prolonged ivermectin control. Moreover, epidemiologic parameters of animal-borne Onchocerca spp. transmitted by the same local black fly vectors of the Simulium damnosum complex were recorded and their impact on O. volvulus transmission success evaluated. With mitochondrial DNA markers we unambiguously confirmed the presence of infective O. volvulus larvae in vectors from the Sudan savannah region (mean Annual Transmission Potential 2009-2012: 98, range 47-221), but not from the Adamawa highland region. Transmission rates of O. ochengi, a parasite of Zebu cattle, were high in both foci.
Conclusions/significance: The high cattle livestock density in conjunction with the high transmission rates of the bovine filaria O. ochengi prevents the transmission of O. volvulus on the Adamawa plateau, whereas transmission in a former hyperendemic focus was markedly reduced, but not completely interrupted after 25 years of ivermectin control. This study may be helpful to gauge the impact of the presence of animal-filariae for O. volvulus transmission in terms of the growing human and livestock populations in sub-Saharan countries.