Bulbul Chakravarti, Clinical Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York, USA

Deb N Chakravarti, Department of Protein and Analytical Chemistry, Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines and Pediatrics, West Henrietta, New York, USA

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Onchocerciasis or river blindness, a filarial parasitic disease caused by infection of humans with Onchocerca volvulus, is a severe public health problem in different parts of Africa, Central and South America and Yemen. The major pathology of the disease is debilitating dermal and ocular complications; in fact onchocerciasis is the second leading cause of infective blindness. An estimated 120 million people live in endemic areas, of whom 18 million are infected. Approximately 2% of the infected individuals eventually become blind, although this may be 30% or higher in hyperendemic areas. The life cycle and antigens of the parasite, the complex immune responses of the host and its evasion by the parasite, and different means of controlling onchocerciasis will be discussed with particular reference to the human disease, although many other species of Onchocerca can infect cattle (O. gibsoni, O. gutturosa, O. lienalis, O. ochengi), horses (O. cervicalis, O. reticulata) and a variety of wildlife, particularly ungulate hosts.

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