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Monday, Jun 17, 2019

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Tarig Higazi

Tarig Higazi

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Zanesville

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Tarig Higazi and colleagues publish on first-time elimination of river blindness in Africa


Tarig Higazi, associate professor of biological sciences at Ohio University Zanesville, along with colleagues from The Carter Center in Atlanta, Ministry of Health in Sudan, College of Public Health at University of South Florida, and Michigan State University, published a paper on the first documented elimination of river blindness, a major tropical disease, in Abu Hamed, Northern Sudan.

The paper appeared in a peer reviewed journal titled, The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. You can read it by visiting http://www.ajtmh.org/cgi/doi/10.4269/ajtmh.16-0274.

Mass treatment for the disease was stopped in 2012 at which time a three-year post-treatment surveillance ensued. At the end of the post-treatment surveillance in 2015 an evaluation for verification of elimination was conducted following current World Health Organization guidelines. The flies that carry the disease were collected and tested and finger-prick blood tests were collected from children in 25 communities within the focus area. The results of the follow-up test indicate that for the first time in Africa, onchocerciasis (river blindness) elimination was verified after successful post treatment surveillance.

River blindness is a major tropical disease currently endemic in Venezuela, Brazil, Yemen, and in 31 African countries where an estimated nearly 123 million individuals at risk reside. The disease is manifested in debilitating skin lesions and ocular pathology that can lead to blindness. Abu Hamed was the northernmost focus of the diseases in the world.

“We are moving forward to re-defining the map of River Blindness worldwide,” Higazi said. “Lessons and experience learned from these activities should assist in elimination efforts in the rest of the country and across the continent.”

The Abu Hamed success story is an example of sustained commitment and successful collaboration of state governments, international organization, NDGOs (non-governmental organizations), pharmaceutical companies, and the local affected communities to realize the vision of the elimination of a major tropical disease in Africa.