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Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia or snail fever) is a chronic disease caused by parasitic worms that live in certain types of freshwater snails. Schistosomiasis is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease in tropical countries and is considered one of the most debilitating helminthic diseases among rural populations. The urinary tract or the intestines may be infected. Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. Those who have been infected a long time may experience liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). In children, it may cause poor growth and learning difficulty
HOW IS SCHISTOSOMIASIS DIAGNOSED?
Schistosomiasis is diagnosed through detection of parasite eggs in either urine or stool samples. Children with urinary schistosomiasis almost always have blood in their urine that can either be detected by the naked eye if severely infected, or by the use of chemical reagent strips if only a microscopic amount of blood is present.
HOW IS SCHISTOSOMIASIS TREATED?
The treatment objective is to cure the disease and to prevent the evolution of the acute to the chronic form of the disease. Currently there are two drugs available, praziquantel and oxamniquine, for the treatment of schistosomiasis. Other possible treatments include a combination of praziquantel with metrifonate, artesunate, or mefloquine. A Cochrane review found tentative evidence that when used alone, metrifonate was as effective as praziquantel.
DID YOU KNOW?
People who come into contact with freshwater such as farmers and fishermen are at a greater risk of contracting this disease.