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BackgroundWHO has proposed elimination of transmission of onchocerciasis (river blindness) by 2030. More than 99% of cases of onchocerciasis are in sub-Saharan Africa. Vector control and mass drug administration of ivermectin have been the main interventions for many years, with varying success. We aimed to identify factors associated with elimination of onchocerciasis transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.MethodsFor this systematic review and meta-analysis we searched for published articles reporting epidemiological or entomological assessments of onchocerciasis transmission status in sub-Saharan Africa, with or without vector control. We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, African Index Medicus, and Google Scholar databases for all articles published from database inception to Aug 19, 2023, without language restrictions. The search terms used were "onchocerciasis" AND "ivermectin" AND "mass drug administration". The three inclusion criteria were (1) focus or foci located in Africa, (2) reporting of elimination of transmission or at least 10 years of ivermectin mass drug administration in the focus or foci, and (3) inclusion of at least one of the following assessments: microfilarial prevalence, nodule prevalence, Ov16 antibody seroprevalence, and blackfly infectivity prevalence. Epidemiological modelling studies and reviews were excluded. Four reviewers (NM, AJ, AM, and TNK) extracted data in duplicate from the full-text articles using a data extraction tool developed in Excel with columns recording the data of interest to be extracted, and a column where important comments for each study could be highlighted. We did not request any individual-level data from authors. Foci were classified as achieving elimination of transmission, being close to elimination of transmission, or with ongoing transmission. We used mixed-effects meta-regression models to identify factors associated with transmission status. This study is registered in PROSPERO, CRD42022338986.FindingsOf 1525 articles screened after the removal of duplicates, 75 provided 282 records from 238 distinct foci in 19 (70%) of the 27 onchocerciasis-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Elimination of transmission was reported in 24 (9%) records, being close to elimination of transmission in 86 (30%) records, and ongoing transmission in 172 (61%) records. I2 was 83·3% (95% CI 79·7 to 86·3). Records reporting 10 or more years of continuous mass drug administration with 80% or more therapeutic coverage of the eligible population yielded significantly higher odds of achieving elimination of transmission (log-odds 8·5 [95% CI 3·5 to 13·5]) or elimination and being close to elimination of transmission (42·4 [18·7 to 66·1]) than those with no years achieving 80% coverage or more. Reporting 15-19 years of ivermectin mass drug administration (22·7 [17·2 to 28·2]) and biannual treatment (43·3 [27·2 to 59·3]) were positively associated with elimination and being close to elimination of transmission compared with less than 15 years and no biannual mass drug administration, respectively. Having had vector control without vector elimination (-42·8 [-59·1 to -26·5]) and baseline holoendemicity (-41·97 [-60·6 to -23·2]) were associated with increased risk of ongoing transmission compared with no vector control and hypoendemicity, respectively. Blackfly disappearance due to vector control or environmental change contributed to elimination of transmission.InterpretationMass drug administration duration, frequency, and coverage; baseline endemicity; and vector elimination or disappearance are important determinants of elimination of onchocerciasis transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings underscore the importance of improving and sustaining high therapeutic coverage and increasing treatment frequency if countries are to achieve elimination of onchocerciasis transmission.FundingThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Neglected Tropical Diseases Modelling Consortium, UK Medical Research Council, and Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking.TranslationsFor the Swahili, French, Spanish and Portuguese translations of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet. Global health

Publication Date



Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya; Paul G Allen School for Global Health, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA. Electronic address: