Effect of onchocerciasis elimination measures on the incidence of epilepsy in Maridi, South Sudan : a 3-year longitudinal, prospective, population-based study
Background High onchocerciasis transmission predisposes endemic communities to a high epilepsy burden. The 4 center dot 4% epilepsy prevalence documented in 2018 in Maridi, South Sudan, prompted the strengthening of onchocerciasis elimination measures. Community-directed treatment with ivermectin was implemented annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019, interrupted in 2020, and re-implemented biannually in 2021. We aimed to assess the effect of these interventions, along with slash and clear vector control on the incidence of epilepsy, including nodding syndrome. Methods In this longitudinal, prospective, population-based study, we did a two-stage house-to-house epilepsy survey before (May 10-30, 2018) and after (March 9-19, 2022) the strengthening of onchocerciasis elimination interventions in South Sudan. Strengthening also included the implementation of a community-based slash and clear vector control method that we initiated in 2019 at the Maridi dam (the main blackfly breeding site). Eight sites were surveyed near the Maridi dam and inclusion required residence in one of these sites. All household residents were first screened by community workers, followed by confirmation of the epilepsy diagnosis by trained clinicians. The primary outcome was epilepsy incidence, including nodding syndrome, which was assessed via self-reported new-onset epilepsy in the previous 4 years of each survey, confirmed by clinician assessment. Findings The preintervention survey included 17 652 people of whom 736 had epilepsy (315 female and 421 male), and the post-intervention survey included 14 402 people of whom 586 had epilepsy (275 female and 311 male). When biannual community-directed treatment with ivermectin was initiated in 2021, the intervention's coverage rose by 15 center dot 7% (95% CI 14 center dot 6-16 center dot 8); although only 56 center dot 6% of the population took ivermectin in 2021. Between 2018 and 2022, epilepsy incidence decreased from 348 center dot 8 (307 center dot 2-395 center dot 8) to 41 center dot 7 (22 center dot 6-75 center dot 0) per 100 000 person-years. Similarly, the incidence of nodding syndrome decreased from 154 center dot 7 (127 center dot 6-187 center dot 3) to 10 center dot 4 (2 center dot 7-33 center dot 2) per 100 000 person-years. The identified risk factors for epilepsy were: living closer to the Maridi dam, being aged between 6 and 40 years, not taking ivermectin, and being male. Interpretation In onchocerciasis-endemic areas with high epilepsy prevalence, strengthening onchocerciasis elimination interventions can decrease the incidence of epilepsy, including nodding syndrome. Additional efforts are needed to increase community-directed treatment with ivermectin coverage and sustain blackfly control in Maridi. Funding Research for Health in Humanitarian Crisis, European Research Council, Research Foundation-Flanders, Research Foundation-Flanders, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, and La Caixa Foundation. Copyright (c) 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
Source (journal)
The Lancet Global Health
11 :8 (2023) , p. E1260-E1268
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Research group
Project info
Development of a policy to stop the suffering caused by Nodding Syndrome and Onchocerciasis associated epilepsy (NSstop).
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
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Web of Science
Creation 04.03.2024
Last edited 07.03.2024
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