Ivermectin has shown promise as a potentially safe and effective microfilaricidal drug for the treatment of onchocerciasis. Several limited studies have shown it to have fewer side effects, especially ocular complications, than the currently available drug, diethylcarbamazine. The detailed ocular findings in 200 moderately to heavily infected Liberians who were enrolled in a safety and dose-finding study are presented. They received either 0, 100, 150, or 200 micrograms/kg of ivermectin and were followed up for 12 months. In clinical studies so far carried out ivermectin in a dose of 100, 150, or 200 micrograms/kg has not been associated with any major adverse reactions nor were there any sight-threatening effects even in the presence of severe ocular disease. Each of these doses significantly reduced the ocular microfilaria load for at least 12 months when compared with either the placebo (p less than 0.05) or pretreatment values (p less than 0.001). However, the 100 and 150 micrograms/kg doses caused fewer minor side effects than the higher dose. These results confirm that ivermectin in a single oral dose may be a safe and effective microfilaricidal drug for the treatment of onchocerciasis and that it appears to be free of major ocular side effects.
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