What is schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and how common is it?

Updated: Jun 11, 2020
  • Author: Shadab Hussain Ahmed, MD, AAHIVS, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by flukes (trematodes) of the genus Schistosoma. After malaria and intestinal helminthiasis, schistosomiasis is the third most devastating tropical disease in the world, being a major source of morbidity and mortality for developing countries in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Asia. (See Epidemiology and Prognosis.) [1]

More than 140 million people, 90% of who live in Africa, are infected with schistosomiasis. [2, 3] An estimated 700 million people are at risk of infection in 76 countries where the disease is considered endemic, as their agricultural work, domestic chores, and recreational activities expose them to infested water. [1, 4] Globally, 200,000 deaths are attributed to schistosomiasis annually. [5] Transmission is interrupted in some countries. [4] (See Etiology and Epidemiology.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 220.8 million people required preventive treatment for schistosomiasis in 2017. An estimated 102.3 million people were treated the same year. [3]

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