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Epidemiology and control of onchocerciasis: The threshold biting rate of savannah onchocerciasis in Africa

Duerr, Hans P., Eichner, Martin
International journal for parasitology 2010 v.40 no.6 pp. 641-650
Onchocerca volvulus, epidemiology, equations, humans, indigenous species, ivermectin, microfilariae, onchocerciasis, parasites, risk factors, savannas, stochastic processes, Central Africa
Control of onchocerciasis currently focuses on community-directed treatment with the microfilaricide ivermectin which effectively kills Onchocerca volvulus microfilariae in the human host. The feasibility of elimination by this control strategy has recently been reported for some foci in Africa which has rekindled discussions on evaluating the threshold conditions of elimination of onchocerciasis. We developed a stochastic model based on a master equation which predicts, based on data from West and Central Africa, that elimination of savannah onchocerciasis can be expected around a threshold biting rate of 730 bites per person per year, ranging region-specifically roughly from 230 to 2300 bites per person and year. The threshold values give rise to optimism that elimination of onchocerciasis is feasible, but the associated measures of parasite prevalence and density suggest that onchocerciasis can remain endemic at very low infection intensities. Endemicity at a low level is a risk factor for elimination strategies, and we point to the necessity of investigating these issues on the basis of breakpoints which refer to threshold conditions based on parasite prevalence and density.