Purpose of review: This review is timely because awareness of the burden of disease from onchodermatitis has increased significantly over recent years. Recent progress in the field is reviewed with emphasis on publications within the past 2 years.
Recent findings: Advances have been made in understanding immunopathogenesis and in diagnosis and treatment. The World Bank/WHO African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), which uses annual community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) via the Mectizan Donation Programme, now covers 19 African countries. Development of ivermectin resistance is a concern. Unlike ivermectin, which is a microfilaricide, doxycycline, which targets Wolbachia endosymbiotic bacteria, sterilizes adult female worms and has a macrofilaricidal effect. Moxidectin, which sterilizes or kills adult worms has started a phase III trial with ivermectin. Additional primary healthcare interventions have been successfully integrated with CTDI. In Latin America, transmission has been interrupted in half of the original endemic foci and Colombia is the first nation to have achieved countrywide interruption of transmission. The first report of elimination using ivermectin in an African setting is a milestone. Two African foci using vector control plus CDTI have reported vector elimination.
Summary: Results of the longer-term impact of large-scale ivermectin distribution by the APOC are awaited. Research is needed into new drug targets within Wolbachia's metabolic pathways. Elimination of transmission of disease is on the horizon but more research is needed on when and where ivermectin treatment can be stopped.