Schistosomiasis

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Schistosomiasis facts

  • Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by Schistosoma spp. that can cause acute and chronic infection.
  • Many symptoms of schistosomiasis infection frequently include fever, blood in stools or urine, and abdominal discomfort.
  • The immune response and Schistosoma spp. egg migration through tissues and their deposition in body organs cause the disease.
  • Schistosomiasis has an acute and chronic phase.
  • Schistosomiasis is diagnosed by the identification of characteristic eggs in feces, urine, or biopsy samples. Diagnosis may be aided with serologic (blood) tests.
  • Schistosomiasis is most often effectively treated with the antiparasitic drug praziquantel (Biltricide), especially in acute phase disease.
  • Chronic schistosomiasis often produces complications in various organ systems (for example, gastrointestinal system, urinary system, heart, liver).
  • Currently, there is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

What is schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis is a disease that is caused by parasites (genus Schistosoma) that enter humans by attaching to the skin, penetrating it, and then migrating through the venous system to the portal veins where the parasites produce eggs and eventually, the symptoms of acute or chronic disease (for example, fever, abdominal discomfort, blood in stools).

This disease is also known as bilharziasis, bilharzia, bilharziosis, and snail fever or, in the acute form, Katayama fever. Theodore Bilharz identified the parasite Schistosoma hematobium in Egypt in 1851. Schistosomiasis is the second most prevalent tropical disease in the world; malaria is the first. The disease is found mainly in developing countries in Africa, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. In the U.S., it is diagnosed in tourists who have visited these developing countries and in visitors from these countries, or from lab accidents. More than 200,000 people die each year in Sub-Saharan Africa from this infection. The type of snail that is part of the parasite's life cycle (see below) is not endemic to U.S. freshwater sources, so the disease is not endemic in the U.S.

In 2014, a new outbreak occurred in Corsica, France in people swimming in the Cavu River. This is the first reported locally acquired Schistosoma infection in France.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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