PLoS neglected tropical diseases 2017 07 1411(7) e0005732 doi 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005732
An increased prevalence of epilepsy has been reported in many onchocerciasis endemic areas. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of epilepsy in onchocerciasis endemic areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and investigate whether a higher annual intake of Ivermectin was associated with a lower prevalence of epilepsy.
Between July 2014 and February 2016, house-to-house epilepsy prevalence surveys were carried out in areas with a high level of onchocerciasis endemicity: 3 localities in the Bas-Uele, 24 in the Tshopo and 21 in the Ituri province. Ivermectin uptake was recorded for every household member. This database allowed a matched case-control pair subset to be created that enabled putative risk factors for epilepsy to be tested using univariate logistic regression models. Risk factors relating to onchocerciasis were tested using a multivariate random effects model. To identify presence of clusters of epilepsy cases, the Kulldorff’s scan statistic was used. Of 12, 408 people examined in the different health areas 407 (3.3%) were found to have a history of epilepsy. A high prevalence of epilepsy was observed in health areas in the 3 provinces: 6.8-8.5% in Bas-Uele, 0.8-7.4% in Tshopo and 3.6-6.2% in Ituri. Median age of epilepsy onset was 9 years, and the modal age 12 years. The case control analysis demonstrated that before the appearance of epilepsy, compared to the same life period in controls, persons with epilepsy were around two times less likely (OR: 0.52; 95%CI: (0.28, 0.98)) to have taken Ivermectin than controls. After the appearance of epilepsy, there was no difference of Ivermectin intake between cases and controls. Only in Ituri, a significant cluster (p-value = 0.0001) was identified located around the Draju sample site area.
The prevalence of epilepsy in health areas in onchocerciasis endemic regions in the DRC was 2-10 times higher than in non-onchocerciasis endemic regions in Africa. Our data suggests that Ivermectin protects against epilepsy in an onchocerciasis endemic region. However, a prospective population based intervention study is needed to confirm this.