Cell phone-based microscope leads to possible strategy for treating river blindness

November 08, 2017

WHAT:

River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is a disease caused by a parasitic worm found primarily in Africa. The worm (Onchocerca volvulus) is transmitted to humans as immature larvae through bites of infected black flies. Symptoms of infection include intense itching and skin nodules. Left untreated, infections in the eye can cause vision impairment that leads to blindness. Mass distribution of ivermectin is currently used to treat onchocerciasis. However, this treatment can be fatal when a person has high blood levels of another filarial worm, Loa loa. In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and other organizations describe how a cell phone-based videomicroscope can provide fast and effective testing for L. loa parasites in the blood, allowing these individuals to be protected from the adverse effects of ivermectin.

In the new study, 16,259 volunteers in 92 villages in Cameroon where both L. loa and O. volvulus are commonly found provided finger-prick blood samples. These samples were then tested for L. loa using the LoaScope, a small microscope that incorporates a cell phone. Developed by a team led by researchers from NIAID and the University of California, Berkeley, the LoaScope returns test results in less than three minutes. Volunteers who were not infected or who had low-level L. loa infections were given standard ivermectin treatment and observed closely for six days afterwards. Volunteers with high numbers of L. loa parasites in their blood did not receive ivermectin.

Using this strategy, 15,522 study volunteers were successfully treated with ivermectin without serious complications. Nearly 1,000 participants experienced mild adverse effects following ivermectin treatment. According to the study authors, the LoaScope could be a valuable approach in the fight against river blindness by effectively targeting populations for ivermectin treatment, and protecting dually-infected patients from complications of inadvertent ivermectin administration.
-end-
ARTICLE:

J Kamgno et al. "Testing and not treating for onchocerciasis control in an area where Loa loa is endemic." The New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1705026 (2017).

WHO:

Thomas B. Nutman, M.D., chief of the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at NIAID, and Amy D. Klion, M.D., head of the Human Eosinophil Section in NIAID's Division of Intramural Research, are available for comment. Both are also co-authors of the paper.

CONTACT:

To schedule interviews, please contact Elizabeth Deatrick, 301-402-1663, elizabeth.deatrick@nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov/.

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Related Blindness Articles from Brightsurf:

New eye drops may prevent a common cause of blindness
New eye drops could prevent vision loss after retinal vein occlusion, a major cause of blindness for millions of adults, a study by Columbia University researchers has found.

Scientists pinpoint brain coordinates for face blindness
Danish and Norwegian researchers have moved one step closer to understanding where face blindness stems from in the brain.

Protein closely linked to commonest cause of blindness
An international team of scientists has identified a protein which is strongly linked to the commonest cause of blindness in developed countries when its levels are raised in the blood.

New glaucoma test to help prevent blindness
Researchers have identified 107 genes that increase a person's risk of developing the eye disease glaucoma, and now developed a genetic test to detect those at risk of going blind from it.

Treatments for leading cause of blindness generate $0.9 to $3 billion
A new economic study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology and conducted by USC researchers at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics, the Ginsburg Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, and the Roski Eye Institute, quantifies the benefits of treatment for wAMD.

Identifying a gene for canine night blindness
An international team of researchers led by the University of Pennsylvania's Keiko Miyadera has identified the gene mutation responsible for a form of night blindness in dogs.

Poor diet can lead to blindness
An extreme case of 'fussy' or 'picky' eating caused a young patient's blindness, according to a new case report published today [2 Sep 2019] in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Brighter possibilities for treating blindness
Advances in preclinical research are now being translated into innovative clinical solutions for blindness, a review published in the 10th anniversary series of science Translational Medicine depicts.

How blindness shapes sound processing
Adults who lost their vision at an early age have more refined auditory cortex responses to simple sounds than sighted individuals, according to new neuroimaging research published in JNeurosci.

Study identifies new genes associated with the leading cause of blindness
A new study, published in Clinical Epigenetics, identifies genes associated with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) that could represent new targets for future drug development.

Read More: Blindness News and Blindness Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.