3 years ago

The effect of bi-annual community-directed treatment with ivermectin on the incidence of epilepsy in onchocerciasis endemic villages in South Sudan: a study protocol

Gasim Abd-Elfarag, Makoy Yibi Logora, Jane Y. Carter, Morrish Ojok, Jackson Songok, Sonia Menon, Ferdinand Wit, Richard Lako, Robert Colebunders



Nodding syndrome (NS) is a devastating epileptic illness of unknown aetiology mainly affecting children 5–15 years of age. Head nodding distinguishes NS from other forms of epilepsy. Other manifestations of the illness include mental and physical growth retardation. Many children die as a result of falling in fires or drowning. Recently, it was shown that NS is only one of the phenotypic presentations of onchocerciasis associated epilepsy (OAE). Despite the strong epidemiological association between epilepsy and onchocerciasis, the causal mechanism is unknown. After implementation of bi-annual community directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTi) and larviciding of rivers in northern Uganda, new cases of NS have ceased, while new cases continue to emerge in South Sudanese onchocerciasis-endemic areas with an interrupted CDTi programme. This study is designed to evaluate the potential effects of bi-annual CDTi on reducing the incidence of NS/OAE in onchocerciasis-endemic areas in South Sudan.


A pre-intervention door-to-door population-based household survey will be conducted in selected onchocerciasis-endemic villages in Mundri and Maridi Counties, which have a high prevalence of epilepsy. Using a validated questionnaire, the entire village will be screened by community research assistants for suspected epilepsy cases. Suspected cases will be interviewed and examined by a trained clinical officer or medical doctor who will confirm or reject the diagnosis of epilepsy. Bi-annual CDTi will be implemented in the villages and a surveillance system for epilepsy set up. By implementing an epilepsy onchocerciasis awareness campaign we expect to obtain > 90% CDTi coverage of eligible individuals. The door-to-door survey will be repeated two years after the baseline survey. The incidence of NS/OAE will be compared before and after bi-annual CDTi.


Our study is the first population-based study to evaluate the effect of bi-annual CDTi to reduce the incidence of NS/OAE. If the study demonstrates such a reduction, these findings are expected to motivate communities in onchocerciasis-endemic regions to participate in CDTi, and will encourage policy makers, funders and other stakeholders to increase their efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis.

Open access
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