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Information About Onchocerciasis

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Onchocerciasis or river blindness is the world's second leading infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by Onchocerca volvulus, a parasitic worm that can live for up to fourteen years in the human body.

The life cycle of O. volvulus begins when a parasitised female Black fly of the genus Simulium takes a blood meal. Saliva containing stage three O. volvulus larvae passes into the blood of the host.

From here the larvae migrate to the subcutaneous tissue where they form nodules and then mature into adult worms over a period of one to three months. After the worms have matured they mate, the female worm producing between 1000 and 1900 eggs per day. The eggs mature internally to form stage one microfilariae, which are released from the female's body one at a time.

The microfilariae migrate from the location of the nodule to the skin where they wait to be taken up by a black fly. Once in the black fly they moult twice within seven days and then move to its mouthparts to be retransmitted.

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