Overview: This study tested the safety and efficacy of using ivermectin to treat patients with onchocerciasis.
Conclusion: The study found that the mean number of nodules that appeared were 17.7% less in patients treated 3-times monthly (when compared to those treated annually).
Background: Little information is available on the effect of ivermectin on the third- and fourth-stage larvae of Onchocerca volvulus. To assess a possible prophylactic effect of ivermectin on this parasite, we compared the effects of different ivermectin regimens on the acquisition of onchocercal nodules.
Methods: We analyzed data from a controlled randomized clinical trial of ivermectin conducted in the Mbam Valley (Cameroon) between 1994 and 1998 in a cohort of onchocerciasis infected individuals. The number of nodules that appeared between the start and the end of the clinical trial was analyzed, using ANOVA and multivariable Poisson regressions, between four treatment arms: 150 µg/kg annually, 800 µg/kg annually, 150 µg/kg 3-monthly, and 800 µg/kg 3-monthly.
Results: The mean number of nodules that appeared during the trial was reduced by 17.7% in subjects treated 3-monthly compared to those treated annually (regardless of the dose). Poisson regression model, adjusting on subject's age and weight, initial number of nodules and intensity of O. volvulus infection in his village of residence, confirmed that the incidence of new nodules was reduced in 3-monthly treatment arms compared to annually treatment arms, and that the dosage of ivermectin does not seem to influence this effect. Furthermore, the number of newly acquired nodules was positively associated with the initial number of nodules. Analysis of disappearance of nodules did not show any significant difference between the treatment groups.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, these results suggest for the first time in humans, that ivermectin has a partial prophylactic effect on O. volvulus. Three-monthly treatment seems more effective than annual treatment to prevent the appearance of nodules.