About the disease
Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is a parasitic infection transmitted to humans through the bite of the blackfly. It causes itching, skin disfiguration, and with chronic exposure, permanent blindness. It also leads affected communities to abandon productive agricultural fields for fear of infection.
River blindness affects approximately 37 million people with an estimated 169 million people at risk–mostly in poor, rural communities near streams and rivers in Africa.
Finding and fighting onchocerciasis
International partnerships have helped reduce the burden of onchocerciasis, paving the way for elimination. These efforts rely on continuous, community-wide testing, which allow control programs to target efforts and monitor recurrence.
For Africa to move from disease control to elimination, better diagnostic tools are needed, especially for monitoring post-control areas for signs of reinfection and for detecting cases in low-prevalence areas.
Creating new diagnostics for onchocerciasis
PATH has recently developed a rapid, affordable, and field-friendly diagnostic test based on the detection of antibodies to the Onchocerca volvulus antigen, Ov16.
Previously, the best available test was an invasive, labor-intensive procedure called a skin snip. Eliminating onchocerciasis will require using improved diagnostic tools like this new test.
Learn more about PATH’s work on onchocerciasis diagnostics:
News and media
- Press release – New onchocerciasis/LF biplex test
- Press Release – Announcing the new onchocerciasis rapid test
Tala de los Santos, Global Program Leader, Diagnostics