Progress report on the elimination of human onchocerciasis, 2016–2017

Weekly epidemiological record

WHO/Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

Publication details

Editors: Dr P. Cantey/Onchocerciasis
Number of pages: 20 p.
Publication date: 10 November 2017
Languages: English and French
WHO reference number:
No. 45, 2017, 92, 681–700



Progress report on the elimination of human onchocerciasis, 2016–2017

Human onchocerciasis is one of the 5 preventative chemotherapy neglected tropical diseases (PC-NTDs).

It is caused by the filarial nematode, Onchocerca volvulus, which is transmitted by bites of blackflies of the genus Simulium. Transmission of the parasite occurs in 3 WHO regions: the African Region, the Region of the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean Region. An estimated 198 million people live in areas where there is potential for transmission of the parasite; however, this number may increase as the mapping of areas of low transmission is finalized. Modelling of data from the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study suggests that the prevalence of current infection may be 17 million, although this may be an underestimate.

Infection with the parasite can result in blindness, decreased vision, and skin disease, all of which can be disabling. Most recent estimates of the burden of disease by the Global Burden of Disease Study suggest that 1.1 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost in 2015 due to onchocerciasis. Both the eye disease and the skin disease have been associated with a decrease in productivity.

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