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The Burden of Schistosomiasis (Schisto, Bilharzia, Snail Fever)

Urine and stool samples tested for schistosomiasis. CDC photo, Sonia Pelletreau

Urine and stool samples tested for schistosomiasis. CDC photo, Sonia Pelletreau

Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease caused by parasitic worms found in fresh water. Fresh water snails are also infected by this parasite during its life cycle, and humans that come into contact with fresh water that contains these snails are at risk for infection. Seven hundred million people are at risk in 74 countries, and 240 million are already infected. Schistosomiasis ranks second only to malaria as the most common parasitic disease, and is the most deadly NTD, killing an estimated 280,000 people each year in the African region alone.

The disease can start with blood in the urine or stool, anemia and problems with growth and development in children, and eventually become life-threatening due to health effects such as bladder cancer and kidney and liver problems. Children with long-term or repeat infections can suffer from anemia and malnutrition, which can contribute to lost days at school and serious learning disabilities. Efforts to control the disease include treating infected people with a drug called praziquantel (donated in part by Merck KGaA) and proper disposal of feces and urine.

More on:  Schistosomiasis 

References

  • Clerinx J, Van Gompel A. Schistosomiasis in travellers and migrants. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2011 Jan;9(1):6-24.
  • Geary et al. Unresolved issues in anthelmintic pharmacology for helminthiases of humans. Int J Parasitol. 2010 Jan;40(1):1-13.
  • King CH. Parasites and poverty: The case of schistosomiasis. Acta Tropica 2010 February; 113(2):95–104.
  • King CH, Dangerfield-Cha M. The unacknowledged impact of chronic schistosomiasis. Chronic Illn. 2008; 4:65–79.
  • King CH, Sturrock RF, Kariuki HC, Hamburger J. Transmission control for schistosomiasis - why it matters now. Trends Parasitol. 2006 Dec;22(12):575-82.
  • Steinmann P et al. Schistosomiasis and water resources development: systematicreview, meta-analysis, and estimates of people at risk. Lancet Infectious Diseases,2006, 6:411–425.
  • van der Werf MJ et al. Quantification of clinical morbidity associated with schistosomeinfection in sub-Saharan Africa. Acta Tropica, 2003, 86:125–139.
  • World Health Organization. Elimination of suffering due to schistosomiasis is possible – WHO calls for concerted intensified action. 2011.
  • World Health Organization. First WHO report on neglected tropical diseases. 2011.
  • World Health Organization. Fact sheet N115. February 2010
 
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  • Page last reviewed: June 6, 2011
  • Page last updated: June 6, 2011
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