Schistosomiasis, also known as Bilharzia, is a neglected tropical disease that is caused by parasitic worms of the genus Schistosoma. Approximately 236.6 million people required preventive treatment for schistosomiasis in 2019, with 90% of them living in Africa (WHO, 2020).
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic shifted attention away from most tropical diseases. This led to an increase in the spread of schistosomiasis in developing countries. Meanwhile, Nigeria has the highest number of schistosomiasis cases globally.
There are two (2) forms of Schistosomiasis: Intestinal Schistosomiasis and Urogenital Schistosomiasis. Intestinal Schistosomiasis is caused by Schistosoma mansoni, Schistosoma japonicum, and Schistosoma intercalatum. Whereas, Urogenital Schistosomiasis is caused by Schistosoma haematobium.
The infection occurs due to a lack of hygiene and school-aged children swimming in infested water. Larval forms of the parasitic worm are released by snails into the water, the larvae then penetrate the skin of humans when they come in contact with the infested water. The water can also be contaminated by the faeces of infected people. Farmers, fishermen, women who wash in the river and school-aged children who swim in rivers are at risk of contracting schistosomiasis.
Symptoms of intestinal schistosomiasis are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloody stool, liver enlargement and spleen enlargement. Symptoms of urogenital schistosomiasis are bloody urine, kidney damage, genital lesions and bladder fibrosis. The complications are bladder cancer, learning difficulties in children and death.
Laboratory diagnoses are Filtration Technique, Antigen Test, Serological Test and Immunological Test to detect parasitic eggs, antigens and antibodies in stool or urine samples. Control of schistosomiasis can be achieved through adequate sanitation, snail control, provision of clean water and proper medication.
Visit MedBioTechLab for early diagnosis of Schistosomiasis if any of the symptoms are noticed.