The DOLF Project has Initiated a Clinical Trial of New Treatments for Onchocerciasis in Liberia

DOLF researchers announce initiation of a major a new clinical trial of treatments for onchocerciasis in Liberia. The study will compare the safety and efficacy of three new combination treatments with a reference treatment of albendazole plus ivermectin. DOLF researchers have worked closely for the past 18 months with colleagues at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) to prepare for the study. The Liberian team is led by NPHIL Deputy Director Dr. Patrick Kpanyen. Besides protocol preparation and ethical approval, preparation for this study required recruitment and training of clinical trial staff, identification participants for the study, and renovation of the clinical trial site at Bong Mines Hospital in Central Liberia. A special wing of the hospital required extensive infrastructure investments that included development of the first fully equipped ophthalmology facility in that region of Liberia. WUSTL DOLF researchers have made many visits to Liberia to help prepare for the study, and staff scientist Kerstin Fischer is currently in Bong to help with clinical trial initiation. Following extensive baseline evaluations, the first 19 study participants were treated on April 10th, 2024, and they will be observed in the residential clinical facility for 7 days after treatment. Enrollment of approximately 300 participants will continue for the next 20 weeks, and participants will receive a second dose of their assigned treatment six months after their first treatment. Safety data from the study will be available in early 2025. Treatment efficacy (assessed by detailed microscopic examination of worms recovered from biopsies of study participants) will not be available until 2026. Discovery of a treatment that is safe and more effective than the current reference treatment for killing or sterilizing the adult worms could accelerate progress toward the permanent elimination of this serious disease from Africa.

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