Treatment and prevention of epilepsy in onchocerciasis-endemic areas is urgently needed

R Colebunders, JNS Fodjo, O Kamoen, LJ Amaral, A Hadermann, C Trevisan, MJ Taylor, J Gauglitz, A Hoerauf, Y Sato, K Polman, MG Basáñez, D Bhwana, Thomson Lakwo, G Abd-Elfarag, SD Pion

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


There is increasing epidemiological evidence supporting the association between onchocerciasis and seizures, reinforcing the concept of onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy (OAE). The aim of this paper is to provide an update on the new knowledge about OAE and to propose recommendations to the World Health Organization how to address this public health problem.

Main text
During the 2nd International Workshop on OAE held on 19–21 September, 2023, in Antwerp, Belgium, participants recognised OAE as a substantial yet neglected public health problem, particularly in areas of sub-Saharan Africa where onchocerciasis remains hyperendemic. Evidence from prospective population-based studies suggest that strengthening onchocerciasis elimination efforts leads to a significant reduction of OAE incidence. There is a need to validate an OAE case definition to estimate the burden of disease and identify onchocerciasis-endemic areas requiring intensification of onchocerciasis elimination programmes and integration of epilepsy care. It is expected that raising awareness about OAE will boost the population uptake of ivermectin. The implementation of a community-based epilepsy treatment programme offering free anti-seizure medications (ASMs) has shown high effectiveness in reducing the frequency of seizures and improving the overall quality of life of people with epilepsy.

To reduce OAE burden, enhanced collaboration between onchocerciasis and mental health programmes at community, national, and international levels is required. Urgent efforts are needed to ensure the uninterrupted provision of free ASMs in onchocerciasis-endemic areas. Furthermore, OAE should be included in the quantification of the onchocerciasis disease burden.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalInfectious Diseases of Poverty
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Burden of disease
  • Children
  • Epilepsy
  • Ivermectin
  • Morbidity
  • Nodding syndrome
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Policy
  • Prevention
  • Treatment


Dive into the research topics of 'Treatment and prevention of epilepsy in onchocerciasis-endemic areas is urgently needed'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this