PLOS: New vectors of Onchocerciasis Identified in Kakoi-Koda focus of the DRC

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Published in the Public Library Of Science (PLOS) and co-authored by Dr. Anne Laudisoit, EcoHealth Senior Scientist, Identification of the onchocerciasis vector in the Kakoi-Koda focus of the Democratic Republic of Congo finds new vectors of onchocerciasis, also known as River Blindness, in the Kakoi-Koda region.

Photo by Dr. Rory Post: Head capsule of larval Simulium dentulosum from Kakoi-Koda focus

Onchocerciasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by the parasitic nematode Onchocerca volvulus that can lead to blindness and permanent skin damage. All known vectors of the parasite are hematophagous,or blood-sucking, blackflies of the Simuliidae family. While the virus is endemic to the Inturi Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), initial studies in the DRC did not survey many rural areas, thus, understanding of the range of the parasite and its vectors remained incomplete. 

Video by Dr. Anne Laudisoit: Simuliidae larvae on a rock

Sampling was carried out directly in rivers and streams as well as from human landing catches in the the Kakoi-Koda focus.  The study found two blackfly species of concern: the primary vector – Simulium dentulosum and, unexpectedly, a secondary vector – Simulium voraxLuckily it seems the species are isolated from vector immigration. 

The study was spurred by the search for the etiology  of “nodding syndrome”, a condition which causes seizures and repeated forward head-drooping. This syndrome was later renamed to Onchocerciasis Associated Epilepsy, sas it was found to be directly associated with infestation with the filaria, or worm, causing onchocerciasis.

Photo by Dr. Rory Post: Coxite & style of adult male Simulium dentulosum from Kakoi-Koda focus

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