There is a roundworm called Onchocerca volvulus, which is the causal organism of onchocerciasis infection. The black fly is the main carrier of the infection, and several bites of this fly will cause this infection in your body. According to the statistics, onchocerciasis is the second biggest reason for blindness, which we call this issue as river blindness also. The roundworm almost infects around 15.5 million people every year. The cure for the infection is very simple, due to which only 800 thousand people lose a bit of their vision. The details about the infection are discussed below, which you must know if you ever suffer from the onchocerciasis infection.
Africa was the first place where the onchocerciasis first appeared. During the early 16th century, when America used to trade enslaved people from West Africa, the infection arrived in the American subcontinent. The enslaved people from that area brought the O. volvulus parasite to Central and Southern America. But for years, people have been unable to figure out the issue. In 1915, Rodolfo Robles Valverde was the first researcher to discover the infection. Later, William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura discovered a drug for curing the infection. The name of the drug was Avermectin, and currently, we are using a derivative of the Avermectin medicine named Ivermectin. For inventing the cure, they also got a Nobel Prize.
The symptoms that might appear in your body when you are suffering from roundworm infections are-
- You will notice rashes on your skin when the roundworm infects your body.
- Bumps under your skin might also appear due to the roundworm.
- You might also notice itching of the eyes when suffering from the infection.
- Your groin might enlarge due to the river blindness infection in your body.
- Your skin might get sensitive to the skin when suffering from this infection.
- A cataract is a very common situation that might arise in your body when the infection increases. Some people might also notice a loss of vision in their bodies.
- Extreme itching might happen in your body and skin as a symptom of the infection.
- Your skin might lose elasticity when suffering from the infection. Your skin might become thin and brittle due to several issues.
- Pigmentation of the skin might change when you suffer from this infection.
These symptoms might appear in your body in the later stages. In the early stages, your body might not show any symptoms of the roundworms as it takes a few years to appear. During this period, the infection spreads severely in the body, and the number of roundworms increases.
Causes of River Blindness
Onchocerca volvulus is the main causal organism of the river blindness problem. The organism’s life cycle is simple and involves roundworms, humans, and female black flies. Let’s start the cycle with an infected human being. When a human being suffers from an infection, the causal organism lays eggs in the body. It is going to convert into larvae. When a black female fly bites an infected human being, the larvae/ microfilaria will enter the body. They will enter the gut of the black fly where they progress into the first larvae stage. After some days, they mature into the second stage and move to the proboscis. After that, they move to the saliva, and the larvae enter the third stage. This whole process will take seven days to complete.
After that, the black fly will pass it to a normal host. The larvae will enter the tissues and start forming nodules. It will take 6-12 months to mature into a full-grown infection in the body. Once a female worm matures, they start laying microfilaria in the subcutaneous tissue. In one day, they can produce 700-1500 microfilaria. During the day, these microfilariae will move to your skin, where the black fly will bite, and the cycle restarts.
Prevention of Onchocerciasis
There is only one way of preventing onchocerciasis infection in the body, i.e., stopping the black fly from biting a person. You can take several measures to eradicate the black fly around you through larvicide spray which controls their population. You can also take a few steps to stop them from biting you by using nets, maintaining general hygiene, etc. It can help you with the prevention of other mosquito-causing infections.
To diagnose the infection of onchocerciasis, physicians perform the skin biopsy process. It is a standard gold test that a physician performs with the help of a sclerocorneal biopsy punch. In this process, the physicians will remove around 2 mg of tissue with a scalpel. Now they will keep the tissue in normal saline water at room temperature. Within 24 hours, larvae will emerge if it is present inside the skin.
The presence of skin nodules can also allow a physician to visualize whether microfilariae are present in their body or not. Most physicians use the skin snip method, but if the results of that method are negative and there are high chances that infection might be in your body, the physician might perform an antibody test. It can also help in diagnosis.
For treating the infection, Ivermectin is the best way available. The medicine is available in the form of pills of Ivermectin 3 mg, Ivermectin 6 mg, and Ivermectin 12 mg which are present under the category of anthelmintic. When a person consumes the medicine, it will enter the body of a mature roundworm and stop them from multiplying in the body. The medicine does it by blocking its protein production mechanism. After that, the medicine will start interfering with the nervous and muscular system of the roundworm in our body. Their whole process of neurotransmission inhibition is going to block common activities in the body of the roundworm, which paralyzes them. The Ivermectin medicine kills the microfilariae completely and blocks the adult female’s reproductive system. It stops the production of more microfilariae. The whole eradication of roundworms from the body can take a few months if you use Ivermectin regularly.