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Lancet. 1991 Nov 2;338(8775):1100-3.

Effects of repeated doses of ivermectin on ocular onchocerciasis: community-based trial in Sierra Leone.

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Medical Research Council Laboratory, Bo, Sierra Leone.


Ivermectin seems to be a safe and effective treatment for onchocerciasis when given in a single dose, but less is known about the effects of repeated doses. Also, there seem to be differences in its effectiveness in anterior and posterior segment ocular disease. The ocular effects of ivermectin were studied in 586 villagers who were taking part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial in Sierra Leone. Only those who had received four doses, with 6-month intervals, of ivermectin or placebo were eligible. The 296 ivermectin-treated subjects and the 272 who received placebo were comparable with respect to age, sex, Onchocerca infection, blindness, and visual impairment before treatment. After treatment, the ivermectin group had less anterior segment disease than the placebo group, with significantly lower prevalences of microfilariae in the anterior chamber and cornea, and punctate keratitis (all p less than 0.001), and iritis (p less than 0.05). There was no significant difference in the prevalence of sclerosing keratitis, optic atrophy, or chorioretinitis between the groups. Visual acuities tended to be better in the ivermectin group, but the difference was not significant. There was a small but significant (p less than 0.01) excess of vascular sheathing in the ivermectin group. These differences persisted when subjects who were blind or visually impaired at baseline were excluded from analysis. The long-term effects of ivermectin, particularly on posterior segment disease, need further evaluation. In the mean time, the mass distribution of ivermectin should be promoted for all communities with hyperendemic onchocerciasis at risk of anterior segment disease.

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