Imported onchocerciasis in migrants and travelers

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Purpose of reviewWith increasing international travel and mass global population migration, clinicians in nonendemic countries must be familiar with imported neglected tropical diseases including onchocerciasis, which is commonly known as ‘river blindness’.Recent findingsImported onchocerciasis manifests differently in travelers compared with migrants from endemic areas and is likely underdiagnosed in both groups. Recent clinical studies confirm that eosinophilia is not a sensitive marker for Onchocerca volvulus, with one-third of patients having a normal eosinophil count. Novel diagnostics measuring antibodies to multiple recombinant O. volvulus antigens maintain a high sensitivity while improving specificity compared with conventional pan-filarial serologic testing. A 6-week course of doxycycline has macrofilaricidal activity through Wolbachia depletion and may be useful in nonendemic areas in addition to standard serial ivermectin.SummaryRecent studies characterizing distinct clinical presentations in travelers and migrants may enable clinicians to better recognize imported onchocerciasis. Although novel diagnostics have improved specificity, most remain restricted to tropical disease reference laboratories and to date there is no marker of cure. Prolonged doxycycline treatment may reduce the need for serial ivermectin, though more potent short-course macrofilaricidal drugs are being developed.

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