The Galabat-Metema cross-border onchocerciasis focus: The first coordinated interruption of onchocerciasis transmission in Africa.

Katabarwa MN, Zarroug IMA, Negussu N, Aziz NM, Tadesse Z, Elmubark WA, Shumo Z, Meribo K, Kamal H, Mohammed A, Bitew Y, Seid T, Bekele F, Yilak A, Endeshaw T, Hassen M, Tillahun A, Samuel F, Birhanu H, Asmare T, Boakye D, Feleke SM, Unnasch T, Post R, Higazi T, Griswold E, Mackenzie C, Richards F


Onchocerciasis transmission across international borders is not uncommon, yet a coordinated cross border stops mass drug administration (MDA) decision has not been documented.


The Galabat-Metema focus involves neighboring districts on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. Mass drug administration (MDA) was provided once and subsequently twice per year in this focus, with twice-per-year beginning in Ethiopia's Metema subfocus in 2016 and in the Sudan's Galabat subfocus in 2008. Ov16 ELISA-based serosurveys were conducted in 6072 children under 10 years of age in the Metema subfocus in 2014, and 3931 in the Galabat in 2015. Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 27,583 vector Simulium damnosum flies from Metema and 9,148 flies from Galabat were tested by pool screen PCR for Onchocerca volvulus O-150 DNA. Only 8 children were Ov16 seropositive (all in the Metema subfocus); all were negative by skin snip PCR. The upper limit of the 95% confidence interval (UCL) for Ov16 seropositive was <0.1% for the overall focus and 0.14 positive fly heads per 2000 (UCL = 0.39/2000). However, an entomological 'hotspot' was detected on the Wudi Gemzu river in Metema district. The hotspot was confirmed when 4 more positive fly pools were found on repeat testing in 2017 (1.04 L3/2000 flies (UCL = 2.26/2000). Information exchange between the two countries led to stopping MDA in a coordinated fashion in 2018, with the exception of the hotspot at Wudi Gemzu, where MDA with ivermectin was increased to every three months to hasten interruption of transmission.


Coordinated stop MDA decisions were made by Sudan and Ethiopia based on data satisfying the World Health Organization's criteria for interruption of onchocerciasis transmission. Definitions of entomological 'hotspots' and buffer zones around the focus are proposed.