GLHAM facilitated a collaboration between Medicines Development for Global Health (MDGH) – a Melbourne-based biotechnology company and social enterprise – and The Fred Hollows Foundation, for the purpose of implementing delivery of Moxidectin in African contexts, with a focus on River Blindness.
River blindness is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, with pockets of infection in the Arabian Peninsula and in some parts of South America as well. The WHO estimates that over 100 million Africans are at risk of infection and some 37 million people are infected globally. This parasitic disease is caused by the worm Onchocerca volvulus, which is transmitted from person to person through the bite of black flies of the genus Simulium. Each adult female worm, which can live for up to 15 years in the human body, produces millions of microscopic offspring (microfilaria) that migrate through the skin, eyes, and lymph nodes. The microfilariae are the main cause of the symptoms, which include severe skin inflammation and intense itching, enlarged lymph nodes and, in some patients, visual impairment that can ultimately lead to blindness. Control and elimination of this disease currently relies on mass annual or biannual drug administration with ivermectin (through donations to the Mectizan Donation Program by Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada).