The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the disruption of mass drug administration (MDA) programmes for onchocerciasis. This research paper uses mathematical modelling to predict how missed or delayed MDA programmes will affect short-term epidemiological trends and elimination prospects for onchocerciasis by 2030.
The results show that biannual MDA is more effective than increasing coverage when it comes to mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. Countries and programmes with shorter (annual MDA) treatment histories should be prioritised for remedial biannual MDA.
Increases in microfilarial load could have short and long-term repercussions on morbidity and mortality. Particularly in high-transmission settings with short treatment history, a two-year interruption could lead to increased microfilarial load in children and adults. These results can guide decision-making to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on onchocerciasis elimination.