Onchocerciasis

Geographic distribution of onchocerciasis (pre-control)
Distribution of onchocerciasis
prior to control
Blind man guided by child
Source: WHO/TDR

Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is a parasitic disease, which is endemic in Africa, and to a lesser degree in Latin America. Over 100 million people are exposed to infection with about 17 million being infected (2008). The most serious consequence of an infection with the parasite Onchocerca volvulus is blindness. The control of the disease started in West Africa in the 1970's with the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) and has been continued by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) since 2003.

In many of the countries where onchocerciasis is endemic, the disease has hampered the cultivation of fertile regions and, therefore, has been one of the most serious enemies for the socio-economic development in these countries. The control programmes have achieved considerable successes. Now it is important to develop concepts by which these successes can be maintained.

The intention of our research is to study the life-cycle and the transmission dynamics of the parasite by mathematical models and computer simulations which both are used for planning and optimizing intervention strategies. In this context, mathematical and statistical methods serve as precious tools because they can provide insights where experimental investigations are not possible. Our work may contribute to improve the health of the people living in countries where onchocerciasis is endemic and hence to increase the developmental potential of these countries.