Public health officials have hailed Merck for its drug donations as it announced that Colombia has eliminated onchocerciasis (river blindness) within its borders.

Colombia is the first country with the disease in the Americas to reach this goal.

Speaking at the 21st Inter-American Conference in Bogota, Colombia, health officials also praised health education group the Carter Center for its work in helping to eliminate the disease.

It was also announced that Guatemala and Mexico have broken the cycle of transmission of river blindness, and both countries intenf to halt their drug treatment programmes next year.

The countries will then begin the three-year post-treatment monitoring process.

The Carter Center, through its Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas partnership, assists national ministries of health in Latin America to conduct health education and distribute Merck’s medicine, Mectizan (ivermectin).