A new drug for onchocerciasis

Development of moxidectin to assess whether it could help eliminate the disease

TDR has been coordinating research to evaluate whether moxidectin could improve prospects for elimination of onchocerciasis since the late 1990s. The disease is endemic in 30 sub-Saharan African countries, Yemen and small areas in 6 American countries. It causes disfiguring and painful skin disease and blindness and has long been recognized as both a public health problem and an impediment to socio-economic development. An estimated 37 million people were infected in 1995. Community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) is today the principal tool for onchocerciasis control.

Moxidectin development objective

Moxidectin is being evaluated to see whether it is safe enough for use in mass treatment and can reduce disease transmission faster than ivermectin (whose development and distribution were also supported by TDR research). Moxidectin could be particularly valuable in post-conflict countries in Africa where CDTI has not yet been implemented or only recently.

Research capacity built and ready for new projects

As is typical for TDR sponsored research projects in disease endemic countries, research capacity strengthening in the countries where the project is implemented is an integral part of the moxidectin project. More infrastructure building than usual was required since part of the studies were conducted in areas in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which were recovering from recent conflicts and had no clinical research capacity. The project created three new clinical research centres in Liberia (1 centre) and DRC (2 centres) and strengthened a centre in Ghana that had been created with TDR support in 1977. The building, equipment and skilled staff provided through the moxidectin project are now available for other research. Organizations and researchers interested in conducting studies in these countries can find the available resources and contact information in the publication below.

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Study comparing moxidectin and ivermectin in subjects with onchocerca volvulus infection