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Biotech Innovations
January 9, 2018

iPhone–Based Device Helps Treat River Blindness

JAMA. 2018;319(2):113. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.20077

With a new cell phone–based diagnostic tool, health care workers in Cameroon were able to reinstate community-wide drug treatment for onchocerciasis, or river blindness, a disease caused by infection with the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. If left untreated, the infection can lead to irreversible vision loss.

River blindness is commonly treated with the drug ivermectin, but the medication can cause serious adverse events including death in people who are infected with another worm, Loa loa. Mass ivermectin treatment was halted in 1999 in Cameroon’s Okola health district following cases of ivermectin-induced encephalopathy in those infected with L loa.