Making Life a Little Bit Sweeter
Eliminating infectious diseases that lead to blindness in Africa – an eye-opening view from the frontlines
Simon Bush | | Longer Read
The impact that neglected tropical diseases can have on communities really hit home for me in 1999. At the time, I was the Regional Director at Sightsavers for West Africa. I went on a field trip to Mali, where I traveled to a village a few hours outside of Bamako. Half of the village’s population was blind due to onchocerciasis – otherwise known as River Blindness.
River blindness is caused by a parasitic worm (Onchocerca volvulus), which is transmitted by bites from infected blackflies that live by rivers and streams. In the body, the worms produce embryonic larvae that migrate to the skin and eyes. Skin changes are a common symptom, but it’s also possible for people to develop eye lesions that can lead to permanent blindness.
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