New findings from two Gates Foundation–supported studies—the Global Enteric Multicenter Study and the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010—suggest the possible importance of adding coverage for intestinal protozoan infections as part of World Health Organization preventive chemotherapy initiatives.
Despite new information that the disease burden of schistosomiasis in Africa may be equivalent to malaria or HIV/AIDS and a simple annual anthelminthic treatment for this disease is available for less than 50 cents per person including delivery costs, we now know that fewer than 5% of the infected population is receiving coverage. To date, this situation represents one of the first great failures of the “global health decade” that began in 2000. The scaling up of praziquantel manufacture and distribution, together with operational research and new product research and development, would represent a global assault on schistosomiasis.
By preventing urogenital schistosomiasis in sexually active females through simple and low-cost methods, we have an innovative and timely opportunity to reduce and possibly interrupt HIV/AIDS transmission throughout many rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 90% of the world’s 207 million cases of schistosomiasis occur in sub-Saharan Africa, making this condition (as well as hookworm infection) one of the most common neglected tropical diseases in the region. Based on additional information that schistosomiasis causes chronic anemia and inflammation associated with severe disability among children, adolescents, and young adults, the disease burden resulting from schistosome infections in Africa may actually rival better known conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.