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[Comment] A new powerful drug to combat river blindness

Onchocerciasis, which is a disease caused by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus, is transmitted from individual to individual by Simulium black flies that breed in fast flowing rivers. The millions of larvae (microfilariae) released by the adult parasites invade skin and eyes where they can cause severe manifestations, including blindness. International control programmes for onchocerciasis have been implemented since the 1970s. Insecticide spraying to eliminate the vector was supplemented by, and ultimately replaced from the 1990s by, mass administration of ivermectin, a drug which kills microfilariae and prevents their release by the adult worms for several months.

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