Onchocerciasis, also referred to as river blindness, is a parasitic disease cause by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. The infectious disease is spread in humans through the bite of Simulium blackfly. Onchocerciasis is the second leading cause of blindness and can cause various skin diseases. Some of the key symptoms associated with onchocerciasis are partial or complete blindness, intense itching, skin rashes, skin depigmentation, nodules under the skin, saggy and drooping areas of skin, and lymph node inflammation.
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The rising prevalence of the condition has led to a vast rise in R&D activities and the entry of several companies in the market in the recent years. The global market for onchocerciasis has been gaining traction owing to the vast developments observed in the field of diagnosis and treatment of the condition. The following treatments and diagnostic methods are available for the condition:
• Skin nip biopsy: The infectious larvae are identified with the aid of biopsy of the skin. A total of six snips are taken from different areas of the body and are put in physiologic solutions, i.e., normal saline to identify larvae.
• Antibody tests: Antibody tests are highly sensitive and are used to determine whether an individual had filarial infection. The most advantageous factor of the test is that it can identify the evidence of infection in the pre-patent stage of the disease.
• Slit-lamp examination: Infection in the eyes can be diagnosed with a slit-lamp examination of the eye in which the lesions caused are visible
• Ivermectin: Ivermectin destroys the larvae and prevents them from causing any damage. The treatment dose must be given every six months and it has been observed that ivermectin also reduces the occurrence of blindness and serious skin infections.
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• Doxycycline: Doxycycline is used to destroy the Wolbachia bacteria that reside in adult parasitic worms. Due to the symbiotic relationship between Wolbachia and the worm, doxycycline may have effective activity against the adult worm.