More About Schistosomiasis

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Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is a parasitic helmethic (worm) infection caused by several species of trematodes (flukes) that affects nearly 207 million people. Infection generally occurs after cutaneous exposure to contaminated water.

Disease manifestations generally follow weeks after initial infection and are chronic. Pathology in SCH infection is not caused by the parasite itself, but rather by the immune response that the body mounts against antigens released by the eggs.

Without treatment, worm pairs inhabit the body and produce eggs for an average of four and a half years, resulting in a vigorous and persistent immune response that causes tissue ulceration, fibrosis, and eventually calcification.

Consequences of SCH infection are especially severe in children, and several studies have shown that infection causes malnutrition and anemia, which may result in growth retardation.