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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid