March 2, 2012, 11:57 am
By The Carter Center
For health workers in Mexico and Guatemala, the start of the new year meant major change. Thanks to the efforts of the Carter Center-sponsored Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), the two Latin American countries have interrupted transmission of river blindness (onchocerciasis) nationwide. On January 1, both stopped distributing Mectizan® , the Merck-donated drug that kills the Onchocerca volvulus parasite. The two neighbors now join Ecuador (which started in 2010) in a three-year monitoring process to make sure the debilitating parasitic disease is gone for good.
The monitoring process involves catching and testing the flies that spread river blindness using the best bait available: a shirtless health worker.
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Once captured, the flies are tested by a polymerase chain reaction test that indicates whether the DNA of the river blindness parasite is present. After three years of clean tests, the countries can join Colombia – and apply to be declared river blindness free!
Learn more about the interruption of transmission of river blindness in Chiapas, Mexico and about the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program >