University of South Florida

Defeating river blindness one village at a time [VIDEO]

Photo by K. Hinton | The Carter Center

Thomas Unnasch, PhD,  professor and chair of global health in the USF College of Public Health, is one of the world’s leading experts on onchocerciasis, or river blindness, a rare parasitic disease spread by the bite of a black fly that breeds in fast-flowing rivers.

His research on the devastating parastic afflication, which can eventually result in incurable blindness, has taken him to Central America, South America and Africa.  Over the last 20 years, he has helped establish laboratories that  monitor the transmission of onchoceriasis as  researchers work to create better monitoring tools and collecting traps and to develop remote sensing models for predicting disease locations.  

Dr Unnach has worked closely with The Carter Center, from which he has received funding, along with the National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation.  He returns to Africa once or twice a year, and chairs an expert advisory committee consulting with the Ugandan Ministry of Health on efforts to eliminate the blinding infection from Uganda by 2020. 

Read the USF Magazine article describing Dr. Unnasch’s ongoing work to help eradicate river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa, where 38 million people are at risk.

Watch the Carter Center video in which Dr. Unnasch discusses the science behind eliminating river blindness.


Thomas Unnasch, PhD, in his lab on the USF Tampa campus, where graduate students are involved in several research projects. Photo by Aimee Blodgett, USF News


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