2020 Target: Control (regional elimination in the Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indonesia and the Mekong River basin by 2015; elimination in the Americas, Western Pacific and selected countries in Africa by 2020)

Clinical Background: Schistosomiasis, or bilharziasis, is a disease that is transmitted through water-borne parasitic worms. The parasite is transmitted to humans by penetration of the skin in fresh water. The majority of suffering and deaths associated with schistosomiasis is the result of slow damage to the host organs caused by accumulation of, and host reaction to, parasite eggs in the tissues over many years.

Epidemiology: Schistosomiasis is present in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. The disease is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which experiences more than 90% of cases. At least 200 million people may have schistosomiasis and 800 million live in endemic areas and are at risk. Estimates of mortality vary significantly, from a floor of 41,000 per year to as many as 280,000 per year in Africa.

Burden: School-age children are the most heavily affected, where the disease is responsible for widespread malnutrition, absenteeism and impaired cognitive development. Children suffering from persistent and heavy schistosomiasis infections are likely to have chronic, irreversible diseases later in life, such as liver fibrosis, cancer of the bladder or kidney failure.

Treatment/Prevention Strategy: Praziquantel (donated by Merck KGaA) is used for annual preventative treatment and therapy for infected individuals.

Key Organizations: The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) was founded at the Imperial College London with a 2002 Gates Foundation grant. The organization partners with USAID, DFID and others to deliver treatment to developing countries. WHO also supports control efforts through the Partners for Parasite Control program.

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