Detection of Onchocerca volvulus infection in low prevalence areas: A comparison of three diagnostic methods

B. A. Boatin, L. Toé, E. S. Alley, N. J.D. Nagelkerke, G. Borsboom, J. D.F. Habbema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The standard assay for onchocerciasis diagnosis is microscopical detection of microfilariae in skin snips. Skin snipping is painful, requires appropriate sterilization of equipment, and may fail to diagnose light infections. Two alternatives are a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which detects parasite DNA in pieces or scrapings of skin and a test based on allergic reactions to topical application of diethylcarbamazine (DEC). We compared these 2 diagnostics with standard skin snip microscopy in 313 individuals from 2 villages in Guinea, with low prevalence after over 10 years of control by the Onchocerciasis Control Programme. Lower and upper bounds on sensitivities and specificities of these 3 tests were estimated. In addition, these parameters were estimated using 5 different statistical models. Where prevalence was low, PCR and the DEC patch test appeared to be more sensitive than skin snipping which has low sensitivity. As the DEC test is non-invasive, simple and cheap, it may provide a good alternative to skin snipping alone for surveillance in low prevalence areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-552
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostics
  • Diethylcarbamazine patch test
  • Onchocerciasis
  • PCR
  • Skin snipping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Infectious Diseases


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