40 lb scrotum removed from patient who developed elephantiasis after contracting the parasitic roundworm, Onchocerca volvulus.
Onchocerca volvulus is the roundworm that causes “river blindness”, or onchocerciasis, in sub-Saharan Africa. Though thickened “elephant skin” can occur with infection, true elephantiasis (a blockage of the lymph system) is uncommon.
Onchocerciasis is not known to have caused a single death, according to the WHO, but it is still a major cause of blindness, with over 300,000 alive who are permanently blinded due to their infection. Over 18 million people are infected in total, but foundations like the Carter Center have dramatically reduced new infection rates.
These foundations are also working to control infestation in those that already have contracted the parasite, using long-term ivermectin treatment. While this treatment does not kill adult worms, it prevents them from reproducing, and halts the progression towards blindness. Only two doses per year are needed, it does not need refrigeration, and it can be administered by minimally-trained local field agents. Merck now provides ivermectin to the NGOs in affected areas for no cost.