Background Mass drug administration (MDA) with ivermectin is the main strategy for onchocerciasis elimination. Ivermectin is generally safe but associated with serious adverse events in individuals with high Loa loa microfilarial densities (MFD). Therefore, ivermectin MDA is not recommended in areas where onchocerciasis is hypo-endemic and L. loa is co-endemic. To eliminate onchocerciasis in those areas, a test-and-not-treat (TaNT) strategy has been proposed. We investigated whether onchocerciasis elimination can be achieved using TaNT and the required duration. Methods We used the individual-based model ONCHOSIM to predict the impact of TaNT on onchocerciasis microfilarial (mf) prevalence. We simulated pre-control mf prevalence levels from 2-40%. The impact of TaNT was simulated under varying levels of participation, systematic non-participation and exclusion from ivermectin due to high L. loa MFD. For each scenario, we assessed the time to elimination, defined as bringing onchocerciasis mf prevalence below 1.4%. Results In areas with 30-40% pre-control mf prevalence, the model predicted that it would take between 14 and 16 years to bring the mf prevalence below 1.4% using conventional MDA, assuming 65% participation. TaNT would increase the time to elimination by up to 1.5 years, depending on the level of systematic non-participation and the exclusion rate. At lower exclusion rates (≤2.5%), the delay would be less than six months. Conclusions Our model predicts that onchocerciasis can be eliminated using TaNT in L. loa co-endemic areas. The required treatment duration using TaNT would be only slightly longer than in areas with conventional MDA, provided that participation is good.

Onchocerciasis, Loa loa, point-of-care testing, elimination, modelling,
Clinical Infectious Diseases

Blok, D.J., Kamgno, J., Pion, S.D., Nana-Djeunga, H.C., Niamsi-Emalio, Y., Chesnais, C.B., … Stolk, W.A. (2021). Feasibility of onchocerciasis elimination using a “test and not treat” strategy in Loa loa co endemic areas. Clinical Infectious Diseases. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa1829