Human schistosomiasis in the post Mass Drug Administration (MDA) era

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Profound changes are occurring in the epidemiology of schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease caused by a chronic infection with parasitic helminths of the genus Schistosoma. Schistosomiasis affects 240 million people worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. The advent and proliferation of mass drug administration (MDA) programs using the drug praziquantel (PZQ) is resulting in substantial increases in the number of people, mainly school-aged children, being effectively treated, approaching the point where the majority of people in endemic areas will receive one or more treatments during their lifetimes. PZQ treatment not only cures infection but also frees the host from the powerful immunomodulatory action of the parasites and simultaneously enhances exposure to key parasite antigens, accelerating the development of protective acquired immunity, which takes many years to develop naturally. At a population level these changes constitute a substantial alteration to schistosome ecology in that the parasites are more likely to be exposed not only to PZQ directly but also to hosts with altered immune phenotypes. Here, we consider the consequences of this for schistosome biology and immuno-epidemiology and for public health. We anticipate that there could be significant impacts on chronic pathology, natural immunity, vaccine development strategies, immune disorders and drug efficacy. This makes for a complex picture that only will become apparent over timescales of decades. We recommend careful monitoring and evaluation to accompany the roll-out of MDA programs in order to ensure that the considerable health benefits to populations are achieved and sustained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E42-E48
JournalThe Lancet Infectious Diseases
Volume17
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

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