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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid