News / Health

    Scientists Try New Tactic Against Schistosomiasis

    The re-introduction of indigenous prawns into this enclosed area in Lampsar village, in northern Senegal is reducing the rate of schistosomiasis infections.  (VOA/J. Lazuta)
    The re-introduction of indigenous prawns into this enclosed area in Lampsar village, in northern Senegal is reducing the rate of schistosomiasis infections. (VOA/J. Lazuta)
    Jennifer Lazuta
    Every year, more than 240 million people get a potentially deadly parasitic infection known as schistosomiasis, transmitted by fresh water snails.  Infection rates have risen to as high as 80 percent in some parts of Africa, where communities often rely on rivers and lakes for bathing, cooking and other household chores. In Saint-Louis, Senegal, aid workers are using another indigenous species, the prawn, to keep parasite levels in check in local rivers.

    In mid-morning, Coumba Ngiané washes a bucketful of family dishes and clothes.
     
    She says the tap water is often cut off in the village, and so the women must come to the river to do laundry and bathe. She says when it gets hot, the children come here to cool off and play. People get sick, she says, and they know it is from the water but they can’t stay away.  

    Freshwater snails are the host for the microscopic parasite that gives you schistosomiasis.  That parasite gets in the water and the larvae can enter your body through a cut, or even just the pores of your skin.

    The larvae then lay eggs in the body, leading to diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.  It infects the intestines and if left untreated, can lead to organ failure and even death.  In children, it can stunt growth and brain development.

    There is treatment, but that won’t stop you from being re-infected the next time you enter the water.

    The disease isn’t new to the Saint-Louis region of Senegal.  But it got worse after the government built a dam on the Senegal River in 1986 to stop salt water from flowing onto farmers’ fields.  The indigenous prawns that eat the snails that carry the parasite were nearly wiped out.

    Amit Savaia, an Israeli prawn specialist currently working in the Saint-Louis area, said the prawns need to move from fresh water to salt water in order to breed.

    “The dam that was built prevented them from migrating," said Savaia who is from Ben Gurion University. "So upstream [from] the dam, the prawns were almost sure extinct.  And if the prawns are extinct, the snails have a very comfortable habitat to bloom and grow, and spread [schistosomiasis].”

    Savaia says in some villages the rate of infection rose from less than 10 percent to more than 80 percent.

    Now, “Projet Crevette,” or the “Prawn Project,” is trying to change that.

    Every three months, the project releases between 50 and 100 prawns into enclosures at seven test sites in the area.

    Project officer Nicolas Jouanard says the idea is to restore balance to the ecosystem.

    “The idea with the prawns is that when they arrive they eat the snails that are in place and that are infected," said Jouanard. "You will get new snails because the prawns are not able to eat every snail, but the snails that you will have here will be small snails, a new generation of snails.  So for them it will take time to be infected again.  When they are young and small they cannot be infected.”

    Scientists say dam construction has disrupted river ecosystems and increased schistosomiasis infection rates in several parts of the world, including China, Egypt and Ivory Coast, in recent decades.

    The founder of the prawn project in Senegal, Elizabeth Huttinger, says their experiment with prawns is a first and the results of the 12-month testing phase are “very promising.”
     
    “On the snail info, the very exciting thing is that there are no infected snails there anymore," said Huttinger. "But what is particularly interesting, is that the intensity of the infections at the prawn site are about 15 times lower than what they are at the control site.”
     
    That means 15 times fewer people are getting sick in the areas where prawns have been re-introduced.  And chronic infections are 40 times lower, as compared to the areas with no shrimp.

    Because the dam is still in place, to keep the project going, researchers are teaching villagers at the test sites how to raise and breed prawns in plastic barrels full of fresh water and salt water.  The villagers can then keep transferring prawns to the river to keep infection rates down.

    Huttinger said they hope to replicate the project in other villages and, ultimately, apply the model worldwide.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Swambe Akim from: Dakar, Senegal
    April 22, 2013 5:29 PM
    God bless you beautiful angles of the House of Israel. in Africa we dance and cry in your honor. Thank you

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora