Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Parasitic diseases


Introduction: Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by phlebotomine sandflies. Between 700,000 and 1.2 million cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis and between 200,000 and 400,000 cases of visceral leishmaniasis (VL), which is fatal if left untreated, occur annually worldwide. Liposomal amphotericin B (LAMB), alone or in combination with other drugs, has been extensively studied as VL treatment, but data on routine field use are limited, and several challenges to patients' access to this life-saving drug remain. Areas covered: This article provides a review of clinical studies on LAMB for VL and other forms of leishmaniasis. The current development of generic versions of LAMB and related challenges are also discussed. Expert opinion: LAMB proved to be highly efficacious and safe in over 8000 VL patients treated by MÉdecins Sans Frontières in South Asia, and its use was feasible even at primary healthcare level. Despite requiring higher doses, LAMB is the drug of choice to treat vulnerable groups (e.g., pregnant or HIV positive) and relapsing VL patients in East Africa. LAMB should be included in national VL guidelines and registered in all VL endemic countries. Its cost should be further reduced and regulatory pathways to prove bioequivalence for generic LAMB products should be implemented.

Concepts: Illness, Amphotericin B, Leishmaniasis, Visceral leishmaniasis, Generic drug, Cutaneous leishmaniasis, Leishmania, Parasitic diseases


The current antibody tests used for monitoring in lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination programs suffer from poor specificity because of the considerable geographical overlap with other filarial infections such as Loa loa (Ll), Onchocerca volvulus (Ov), and Mansonella perstans (Mp).

Concepts: Nematodes, Parasitic diseases, Diethylcarbamazine, Filariasis, Wuchereria bancrofti, Insect-borne diseases, Loa loa filariasis, Mansonella


The emphasis placed on the activities of mobile teams in the detection of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) can at times obscure the major role played by fixed health facilities in HAT control and surveillance. The lack of consistent and detailed data on the coverage of passive case-finding and treatment further constrains our ability to appreciate the full contribution of the health system to the control of HAT.

Concepts: Parasitic diseases, Trypanosoma brucei, African trypanosomiasis, Major, Trypanosome, Tsetse fly, Sleeping sickness, ObsCure II


Background Implementation of an ivermectin-based community treatment strategy for the elimination of onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis has been delayed in Central Africa because of the occurrence of serious adverse events, including death, in persons with high levels of circulating Loa loa microfilariae. The LoaScope, a field-friendly diagnostic tool to quantify L. loa microfilariae in peripheral blood, enables rapid, point-of-care identification of persons at risk for serious adverse events. Methods A test-and-not-treat strategy was used in the approach to ivermectin treatment in the Okola health district in Cameroon, where the distribution of ivermectin was halted in 1999 after the occurrence of fatal events related to L. loa infection. The LoaScope was used to identify persons with an L. loa microfilarial density greater than 20,000 microfilariae per milliliter of blood, who were considered to be at risk for serious adverse events, and exclude them from ivermectin distribution. Active surveillance for posttreatment adverse events was performed daily for 6 days. Results From August through October 2015, a total of 16,259 of 22,842 persons 5 years of age or older (71.2% of the target population) were tested for L. loa microfilaremia. Among the participants who underwent testing, a total of 15,522 (95.5%) received ivermectin, 340 (2.1%) were excluded from ivermectin distribution because of an L. loa microfilarial density above the risk threshold, and 397 (2.4%) were excluded because of pregnancy or illness. No serious adverse events were observed. Nonserious adverse events were recorded in 934 participants, most of whom (67.5%) had no detectable L. loa microfilariae. Conclusions The LoaScope-based test-and-not-treat strategy enabled the reimplementation of community-wide ivermectin distribution in a heretofore “off limits” health district in Cameroon and is a potentially practical approach to larger-scale ivermectin treatment for lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis in areas where L. loa infection is endemic. (Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.).

Concepts: Parasitic diseases, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Ivermectin, Loa loa filariasis, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates


An epidemic illness characterized by head nodding associated with onchocerciasis has been described in eastern Africa since the early 1960s; we summarize published reports and recent studies. Onset of nodding occurs in previously healthy 5-15-year-old children and is often triggered by eating or cold temperatures and accompanied by cognitive impairment. Its incidence has increased in Uganda and South Sudan over the past 10 years. Four case-control studies identified modest and inconsistent associations. There were nonspecific lesions seen by magnetic resonance imaging, no cerebrospinal fluid inflammation, and markedly abnormal electroencephalography results. Nodding episodes are atonic seizures. Testing has failed to demonstrate associations with trypanosomiasis, cysticercosis, loiasis, lymphatic filariasis, cerebral malaria, measles, prion disease, or novel pathogens; or deficiencies of folate, cobalamin, pyridoxine, retinol, or zinc; or toxicity from mercury, copper, or homocysteine. There is a consistent enigmatic association with onchocerciasis detected by skin snip or serologic analysis. Nodding syndrome is an unexplained epidemic epilepsy.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Brain, Infectious disease, Malaria, Africa, Parasitic diseases, Seizure, Filariasis


A third-stage (infective) larva of Dracunculus medinensis, the causative agent of Guinea worm disease, was recovered from a wild-caught Phrynobatrachus francisci frog in Chad. Although green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) have been experimentally infected with D. medinensis worms, our findings prove that frogs can serve as natural paratenic hosts.

Concepts: Infection, Parasitic diseases, Newt, Frogs, Dracunculiasis, Dracunculus medinensis


Parasitic helminths cause debilitating diseases that affect millions of people in primarily low-resource settings. Efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis in Central Africa through mass drug administration have been suspended because of ivermectin-associated serious adverse events, including death, in patients infected with the filarial parasite Loa loa. To safely administer ivermectin for onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis in regions co-endemic with L. loa, a strategy termed “test and (not) treat” has been proposed whereby those with high levels of L. loa microfilariae (>30,000/ml) that put them at risk for life-threatening serious adverse events are identified and excluded from mass drug administration. To enable this, we developed a mobile phone-based video microscope that automatically quantifies L. loa microfilariae in whole blood loaded directly into a small glass capillary from a fingerprick without the need for conventional sample preparation or staining. This point-of-care device automatically captures and analyzes videos of microfilarial motion in whole blood using motorized sample scanning and onboard motion detection, minimizing input from health care workers and providing a quantification of microfilariae per milliliter of whole blood in under 2 min. To validate performance and usability of the mobile phone microscope, we tested 33 potentially Loa-infected patients in Cameroon and confirmed that automated counts correlated with manual thick smear counts (94% specificity; 100% sensitivity). Use of this technology to exclude patients from ivermectin-based treatment at the point of care in Loa-endemic regions would allow resumption/expansion of mass drug administration programs for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis in Central Africa.

Concepts: Malaria, Parasitism, Parasitic diseases, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Ivermectin, Microfilaria, Loa loa filariasis


Lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminths (STH) and trachoma represent the five most prevalent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). They can be controlled or eliminated by means of safe and cost-effective interventions delivered through programs of Mass Drug Administration (MDA)-also named Preventive Chemotherapy (PCT). The WHO defined targets for NTD control/elimination by 2020, reinforced by the 2012 London Declaration, which, if achieved, would result in dramatic health gains. We estimated the potential economic benefit of achieving these targets, focusing specifically on productivity and out-of-pocket payments.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Malaria, Schistosomiasis, Parasitic diseases, Filariasis, Neglected diseases, Tropical disease, Tropical diseases


Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are generally assumed to be concentrated in poor populations, but evidence on this remains scattered. We describe within-country socioeconomic inequalities in nine NTDs listed in the London Declaration for intensified control and/or elimination: lymphatic filariasis (LF), onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), trachoma, Chagas' disease, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), leprosy, and visceral leishmaniasis (VL).

Concepts: Infectious disease, Parasitic diseases, African trypanosomiasis, Vector, Neglected diseases, Tropical disease, Insect-borne diseases, Tropical diseases


The control or elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) has targets defined by the WHO for 2020, reinforced by the 2012 London Declaration. We estimated the economic impact to individuals of meeting these targets for human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, NTDs controlled or eliminated by innovative and intensified disease management (IDM).

Concepts: Infectious disease, Chagas disease, Parasitic diseases, African trypanosomiasis, Neglected diseases, Tropical disease, Nifurtimox, Tropical diseases