Dr Eyrun Kjetland from the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa presented current research into urogenital schistosomiasis at this year’s ECCMID conference.
Taking a step back to begin with, she said schistosomiasis itself affects 2 billion people worldwide; 80 million of these show symptoms and just over 30 million receive treatment.
It’s a growing problem in some regions, particularly among travelers and migrants. People become infected with schistosomiasis when worm forms of the snail parasite penetrate their skin during contact with infested water. These then live in blood vessels where they grow and reproduce more schistosomes, or eggs. Eggs either pass through as waste or get trapped in the body, causing immune reactions and progressive damage to organs.
Kjetland described the current situation of one target of the schistosomes – the reproductive system. “In the last two decades,” she said, “after the first six community-based studies on this “gyneacological Schistosoma haematobium”, WHO has recommended that this form of the disease should be referred to as urogenital schistosomiasis.”
Below is a summary of key points and issues Kjetland raised during her presentation.