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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What are the complications of schistosomiasis?

The complications that may develop with schistosomiasis usually occur in individuals harboring many parasites and eggs, especially when the eggs and parasites have migrated to other organs. In general, complications usually involve the cardiopulmonary, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems (CNS), the liver and spleen, and urinary tracts along with the liver and spleen. Some of the major complications are high blood pressure (hypertension), seizures, bacterial infections, urinary obstruction, organ damage or destruction, and death.

Can schistosomiasis be prevented?

Theoretically, the disease can be prevented by avoiding all human skin contact with freshwater sources where schistosomiasis and the snails that complete their life cycle are endemic. However, this is unlikely to occur in most developing countries. Reports of attempts to decrease or eliminate snails from some freshwater sources using molluscicides (snail bait) have reported a decrease in the number of people infected, but this often requires repeat treatments, and some efforts have been stopped because of limited success.

Unfortunately, people who are treated and have no symptoms of the disease can easily become reinfected if exposed to the cercariae; as the human immune response to this disease often is not able to prevent reinfection. There is no commercially available vaccine against Schistosoma spp., but research is ongoing and perhaps in a few years, a vaccine may be available.

What is the prognosis (outcome) for schistosomiasis?

Early antiparasitic treatment, especially with acute schistosomiasis, may allow people to recover completely without developing chronic disease. A few people get the disease but recover completely. Even patients with early chronic disease can improve with drug treatment. However, the prognosis is worse for people who have other health problems (for example, with a suppressed immune system, HIV, or chronic infections such as malaria) and subsequently get infected with Schistosoma spp. People with chronic disease may improve with careful antiparasitic drug treatments and symptomatic treatment of the complications associated with schistosomiasis.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

REFERENCES:

Behrman, Amy. "Schistosomiasis." eMedicine.com. Feb. 3, 2010. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/788867-overview>.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Local transmission of Schistosoma in Corsica, France: Risk limited to residents and people visiting the area, infection only through contact with freshwater <http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/_layouts/forms/News_DispForm.aspx?List=8db7286c-fe2d-476c-9133-18ff4cb1b568&ID=1007>.

Kogulan, Palaniandy, and Daniel Lucey. "Schistosomiasis." eMedicine.com. Feb. 26, 2010. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/228392-overview>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Schistosomiasis." July 20, 2009. <http://www.dpd.cdc.gov/dpdx/HTML/Schistosomiasis.htm>.

Medscape. Schistosomiasis. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/228392-overview>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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