Onchocerca volvulus is not detected in the cerebrospinal fluid of persons with onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy.
ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVES:Epidemiological evidence links onchocerciasis with the development of epilepsy. The aim of this study was to detect Onchocerca volvulus microfilariae or its bacterial endosymbiont, Wolbachia, in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of persons with onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE). METHODS:Thirteen persons with OAE and O. volvulus skin snip densities of >80 microfilariae were recruited in Maridi County (South Sudan) and their CSF obtained. Cytospin centrifuged preparations of CSF were examined by light microscopy for the presence of O. volvulus microfilariae. DNA was extracted from CSF to detect O. volvulus (O-150 repeat) by quantitative real-time PCR, and Wolbachia (FtsZ gene) by standard PCR. To further investigate whether CSF from onchocerciasis-infected participants could induce seizures, 3- and 7-day old zebrafish larvae were injected with the CSF intracardially and intraperitoneally, respectively. For other zebrafish larvae, CSF was added directly to the larval medium. RESULTS:No microfilariae, parasite DNA, or Wolbachia DNA were detected in any of the CSF samples by light microscopy or PCR. All zebrafish survived the procedures and none developed seizures. CONCLUSIONS:The absence of O. volvulus in the CSF suggests that OAE is likely not caused by direct parasite invasion into the central nervous system, but by another phenomenon triggered by O. volvulus infection.
Project description:Recently, several epidemiological studies performed in Onchocerca volvulus-endemic regions have suggested that onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE) may constitute an important but neglected public health problem in many countries where onchocerciasis is still endemic.On October 12-14th 2017, the first international workshop on onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE) was held in Antwerp, Belgium. The workshop was attended by 79 participants from 20 different countries. Recent research findings strongly suggest that O. volvulus is an important contributor to epilepsy, particularly in meso- and hyperendemic areas for onchocerciasis. Infection with O. volvulus is associated with a spectrum of epileptic seizures, mainly generalised tonic-clonic seizures but also atonic neck seizures (nodding), and stunted growth. OAE is characterised by an onset of seizures between the ages of 3-18 years. Multidisciplinary working groups discussed topics such as how to 1) strengthen the evidence for an association between onchocerciasis and epilepsy, 2) determine the burden of disease caused by OAE, 3) prevent OAE, 4) improve the treatment/care for persons with OAE and affected families, 5) identify the pathophysiological mechanism of OAE, and 6) deal with misconceptions, stigma, discrimination and gender violence associated with OAE. An OAE Alliance was created to increase awareness about OAE and its public health importance, stimulate research and disseminate research findings, and create partnerships between OAE researchers, communities, advocacy groups, ministries of health, non-governmental organisations, the pharmaceutical industry and funding organizations.Although the exact pathophysiological mechanism underlying OAE remains unknown, there is increasing evidence that by controlling and eliminating onchocerciasis, OAE will also disappear. Therefore, OAE constitutes an additional argument for strengthening onchocerciasis elimination efforts. Given the high numbers of people with epilepsy in O. volvulus-endemic regions, more advocacy is urgently needed to provide anti-epileptic treatment to improve the quality of life of these individuals and their families.
Project description:BACKGROUND:High epilepsy prevalence and incidence were observed in onchocerciasis-endemic villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We investigated the clinical characteristics of onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE), and the relationship between seizure severity and microfilarial density. METHODS:In October 2017, ivermectin-naive persons with epilepsy (PWE) were recruited from onchocerciasis-endemic areas in the Logo health zone in the DRC. Additional PWE were enrolled in the Aketi health zone, where ivermectin had been distributed annually for 14 years. Past medical history, clinical characteristics and skin snips for Onchocerca volvulus detection were obtained from participants. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were used to investigate associations with microfilarial density. RESULTS:Of the 420 PWE in the Logo health zone, 392 were skin snipped (36.5% positive). Generalized motor seizures were most frequent (392 PWE, 93.3%), and nodding seizures were reported in 32 (7.6%) participants. Twelve PWE (3.1%) presented Nakalanga features. Sixty-three (44.1%) skin snip-positive PWE had a family history of epilepsy, compared to only 82 (32.9%) skin snip-negative PWE (p = 0.027). Eighty-one onchocerciasis-infected PWE were recruited in the Aketi health zone. Positive correlations between seizure frequency and microfilarial density were observed in Logo (Spearman-rho = 0.175; p<0.001) and Aketi (Spearman-rho = 0.249; p = 0.029). In the multivariable model adjusted for age, gender, and previous treatment, high seizure frequency was associated with increasing microfilarial density in Aketi (p = 0.025) but not in Logo (p = 0.148). CONCLUSION:In onchocerciasis-endemic regions in the DRC, a wide spectrum of seizures was observed. The occurrence of Nodding seizures and Nakalanga features, as well as an association between seizure severity and O. volvulus microfilarial density suggest a high OAE prevalence in the study villages. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03052998.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Nodding syndrome (NS) is a devastating epileptic illness of unknown aetiology mainly affecting children 5-15 years of age. Head nodding distinguishes NS from other forms of epilepsy. Other manifestations of the illness include mental and physical growth retardation. Many children die as a result of falling in fires or drowning. Recently, it was shown that NS is only one of the phenotypic presentations of onchocerciasis associated epilepsy (OAE). Despite the strong epidemiological association between epilepsy and onchocerciasis, the causal mechanism is unknown. After implementation of bi-annual community directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTi) and larviciding of rivers in northern Uganda, new cases of NS have ceased, while new cases continue to emerge in South Sudanese onchocerciasis-endemic areas with an interrupted CDTi programme. This study is designed to evaluate the potential effects of bi-annual CDTi on reducing the incidence of NS/OAE in onchocerciasis-endemic areas in South Sudan. METHODS:A pre-intervention door-to-door population-based household survey will be conducted in selected onchocerciasis-endemic villages in Mundri and Maridi Counties, which have a high prevalence of epilepsy. Using a validated questionnaire, the entire village will be screened by community research assistants for suspected epilepsy cases. Suspected cases will be interviewed and examined by a trained clinical officer or medical doctor who will confirm or reject the diagnosis of epilepsy. Bi-annual CDTi will be implemented in the villages and a surveillance system for epilepsy set up. By implementing an epilepsy onchocerciasis awareness campaign we expect to obtain >?90% CDTi coverage of eligible individuals. The door-to-door survey will be repeated two years after the baseline survey. The incidence of NS/OAE will be compared before and after bi-annual CDTi. DISCUSSION:Our study is the first population-based study to evaluate the effect of bi-annual CDTi to reduce the incidence of NS/OAE. If the study demonstrates such a reduction, these findings are expected to motivate communities in onchocerciasis-endemic regions to participate in CDTi, and will encourage policy makers, funders and other stakeholders to increase their efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis.
Project description:A clinical trial performed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among persons with epilepsy (PWE) infected with <i>Onchocerca volvulus</i> treated with anti-seizure medication suggested that ivermectin reduces the seizure frequency. We assessed the effect of ivermectin treatment on seizure frequency in PWE with and without anti-seizure medication in three onchocerciasis endemic areas (Maridi, South Sudan; Aketi, DRC; and Mahenge, Tanzania). Pre- and 3-5 months post-ivermectin microfilariae densities in skin snips and seizure frequency were assessed. After ivermectin, the median (IQR) percentage reduction in seizure frequency in the study sites ranged from 73.4% (26.0-90.0) to 100% (50.0-100.0). A negative binomial mixed model showed that ivermectin significantly reduced the seizure frequency, with a larger decrease in PWE with a high baseline seizure frequency. Mediation analysis showed that ivermectin reduced the seizure frequencies indirectly through reduction in microfilariae densities but also that ivermectin may have a direct anti-seizure effect. However, given the short half-life of ivermectin and the fact that ivermectin does not penetrate the healthy brain, such a direct anti-seizure effect is unlikely. A randomized controlled trial assessing the ivermectin effect in people infected with <i>O. volvulus</i> who are also PWE on a stable anti-seizure regimen may be needed to clarify the causal relationship between ivermectin and seizure frequency.
Project description:Many studies have reported an association between epilepsy, nodding syndrome (NS), and onchocerciasis (river blindness). A high prevalence of epilepsy has been noted particularly in onchocerciasis hyperendemic areas where onchocerciasis is not or insufficiently controlled with mass ivermectin distribution. There is evidence that increasing the coverage of ivermectin reduces the incidence of epilepsy, and anecdotal evidence suggests a reduction in seizure frequency in onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE) patients who receive ivermectin. Finding an alternative treatment for epilepsy in these patients will have major consequences.The goal of the study is to assess whether ivermectin treatment decreases the frequency of seizures and leads to seizure freedom in OAE patients, including patients with NS. If we are able to demonstrate such an effect, this would strengthen the argument that onchocerciasis is causing epilepsy and therefore we should increase our efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis.We will conduct a randomized clinical trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo to compare seizure freedom in onchocerciasis-infested epilepsy patients who receive immediate ivermectin treatment with delayed (after 4 months) ivermectin treatment. All participants will simultaneously receive antiepilepsy drugs (AEDs) according to local guidelines for epilepsy treatment. The primary endpoint is seizure freedom defined as no seizures during the 4 month of follow-up. Secondary endpoint is significant (>50%) seizure reduction compared to baseline seizure frequency. Reduction of seizures will be compared between ivermectin and nonivermectin arms.Start of enrollment is planned for August 2017, and we expect to have enrolled all 110 participants by December 2017. Results are expected in June 2018.If ivermectin treatment in addition to AEDs is able to lead to seizure freedom or significantly reduces seizure frequency in OAE patients, this will have major consequences for epilepsy treatment in onchocerciasis-endemic regions. Ivermectin is donated for free and in non Loa-Loa-endemic regions has negligible side effects. Reducing the burden of epilepsy will have a major impact on quality of life and socioeconomic status of families with affected members in Africa.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03052998; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03052998 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6roFVQSG0).
Project description:BACKGROUND:A high prevalence of epilepsy has been observed in onchocerciasis endemic areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). With this study we aimed to investigate whether Onchocerca volvulus infection is a risk factor for developing epilepsy in onchocerciasis endemic regions in the DRC. METHODS:Between October and December 2015, a multi-centre case control study was performed in onchocerciasis endemic health zones (HZ) in the DRC: one study site was situated in Tshopo Province in the HZ of Wanierukula (village of Salambongo) where there had been 13 annual community distributions of treatment with ivermectin (CDTI), a second was situated in Ituri Province in the HZ of Logo (village of Draju) where ivermectin had never been distributed and in the HZ of Rethy (village of Rassia) where there had been THREE CDTI annual campaigns before the study. Individuals with unprovoked convulsive epilepsy of unknown etiology were enrolled as cases (n?=?175). Randomly selected healthy members of families without epilepsy cases from the same village and age-groups and were recruited as controls (n?=?170). RESULTS:Onchocerciasis associated symptoms (e.g., itching and abnormal skin) were more often present in cases compared to controls (respectively, OR?=?2.63, 95% CI: 1.63-4.23, P?<? 0.0001 and OR?=?3.23, 95% CI: 1.48-7.09, P?=?0.0034). A higher number of cases was found to present with microfilariae in skin snips and with O. volvulus IgG4 antibodies in the blood compared to controls. Moreover, the microfilariae load in skin snips was 3-10 times higher in cases than controls. CONCLUSIONS:This case control study confirms that O. volvulus is a risk factor for developing epilepsy in onchocerciasis endemic regions in the DRC.
Project description:BACKGROUND:There is anecdotal evidence that ivermectin may decrease seizure frequency in Onchocerca volvulus-infected persons with epilepsy (PWE). METHODS:In October 2017, a 12-month clinical trial was initiated in rural Democratic Republic of Congo. PWE with onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy experiencing ?2 seizures/month were randomly allocated to receive, over a one-year period, ivermectin once or thrice (group 1), while other onchocerciasis-infected PWE (OIPWE) were randomized to ivermectin twice or thrice (group 2). All participants also received anti-epileptic drugs. Data was analyzed using multiple logistic regression. RESULTS:We enrolled 197 participants. In an intent-to-treat analysis (data from group 1 and 2 combined), seizure freedom was more likely among OIPWE treated with ivermectin thrice (OR: 5.087, 95% CI: 1.378-19.749; p = 0.018) and twice (OR: 2.471, 95% CI: 0.944-6.769; p = 0.075) than in those treated once. Similarly, >50% seizure reduction was more likely among those treated with ivermectin twice (OR: 4.469, 95% CI: 1.250-16.620) and thrice (OR: 2.693, 95% CI: 1.077-6.998). Absence of microfilariae during the last 4 months increased the odds of seizure freedom (p = 0.027). CONCLUSIONS:Increasing the number of ivermectin treatments was found to suppress both microfilarial density and seizure frequency in OIPWE, suggesting that O. volvulus infection plays an etiological role in causing seizures.
Project description:Background: An epilepsy prevalence of 4.4% was documented in onchocerciasis-endemic villages close to the Maridi River in South Sudan. We investigated the role of the Maridi dam in causing an onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy epidemic in these villages. Methods: Affected communities were visited in November 2019 to conduct focus group discussions with village elders and assess the OV16 seroprevalence in 3- to 9-year-old children. Entomological assessments to map blackfly breeding sites and determine biting rates around the Maridi River were conducted. Historical data regarding various activities at the Maridi dam were obtained from the administrative authorities. Results: The Maridi dam was constructed in 1954-1955. Village elders reported an increasing number of children developing epilepsy, including nodding syndrome, from the early 1990s. Kazana 2 (the village closest to the dam; epilepsy prevalence 11.9%) had the highest OV16 seroprevalence: 40.0% among children 3-6 years old and 66.7% among children 7-9 years old. The Maridi dam spillway was found to be the only Simulium damnosum breeding site along the river, with biting rates reaching 202 flies/man/h. Conclusion: Onchocerciasis transmission rates are high in Maridi. Suitable breeding conditions at the Maridi dam, coupled with suboptimal onchocerciasis control measures, have probably played a major role in causing an epilepsy (including nodding syndrome) epidemic in the Maridi area.
Project description:Ivermectin (IVM) has been the drug of choice for the treatment of onchocerciasis. However, there have been reports of persistent microfilaridermia in individuals from an endemic area in Ghana after many rounds of IVM, raising concerns of suboptimal response or even the emergence of drug resistance. Because it is considered risky to continue relying only on IVM to combat this phenomenon, we assessed the effect of targeting the Onchocerca volvulus Wolbachia endosymbionts with doxycycline for these individuals with suboptimal response.One hundred sixty-seven patients, most of them with multiple rounds of IVM, were recruited in areas with IVM suboptimal response and treated with 100 mg/day doxycycline for 6 weeks. Three and 12 months after doxycycline treatment, patients took part in standard IVM treatment.At 20 months after treatment, 80% of living female worms from the placebo group were Wolbachia positive, whereas only 5.1% in the doxycycline-treated group contained bacteria. Consistent with interruption of embryogenesis, none of the nodules removed from doxycycline-treated patients contained microfilariae, and 97% of those patients were without microfilaridermia, in contrast to placebo patients who remained at pretreatment levels (P < .001). Moreover, a significantly enhanced number of dead worms were observed after doxycycline.Targeting the Wolbachia in O. volvulus is effective in clearing microfilariae in the skin of onchocerciasis patients with persistent microfilaridermia and in enhanced killing of adult worms after repeated standard IVM treatment. Strategies can now be developed that include doxycycline to control onchocerciasis in areas where infections persist despite the frequent use of IVM.ISRCTN 66649839.
Project description:During door-to-door surveys in onchocerciasis-endemic regions in Africa, the age-specific ivermectin coverage in 29 722 individuals was assessed. Children 5-6 y of age had significantly lower coverage compared with older participants. Insufficient ivermectin intake among young children could prolong onchocerciasis elimination prospects, as they may serve as human reservoirs of Onchocerca volvulus; moreover, it increases the risk of developing onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE). The causes of the low ivermectin coverage observed among children 5-6 y of age need to be explored. Integrating ivermectin distribution into chemoprophylaxis strategies for other neglected diseases could increase coverage in a cost-effective manner.