Schistosomiasis has a greater effect than previosly thought

Schistosomiasis, an infection caused by a parasitic worm, affects more than 200 million worldwide, most of them in Africa and many health workers believe the disabling effects of schistosomiasis have never been adequately quantified.

Researchers have now found that the disability associated with schistosomiasis is far greater than previously thought.

Current estimates suggest the effect of infection is quite small but care resources rely on accurate estimates of death and disability.

Dr Charles King and colleagues at the Center for Global Health and Diseases reviewed 135 published and unpublished reports from March 1921 to July 2002 on disability-associated outcomes for all forms of schistosomiasis and they found that human schistosome infection was significantly linked to anaemia, diarrhoea, chronic pain, fatigue, exercise intolerance, and malnutrition, and concluded that the resulting disability was substantially higher than the World Health Organisation’s current estimates.

They also found that the disabling loss of performance in a person with schistosomiasis can be improved through intervention with specific treatment.

Dr King says that although in most cases schistosomiasis is unlikely to progress to be fatal it is a prominent, chronic, recurring infection in endemic areas, and significantly affects the health status of the individuals infected.

Dr Lorenzo Saviol and colleagues from the World Health Organisation say that the study results should give a better a better understanding of the impact of schistosomiasis and the analysis should encourage a comprehensive re-evaluation of the cost to human and economic development of a group of highly prevalent but still concealed communicable diseases of the poor.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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