What is Schistosomiasis?
Schistosomiasis is also called bilharzia is an acute and chronic condition caused by blood flukes of trematode worms (parasitic worms) belonging to the genus Schistosoma. Infection in a human being is caused when they come in contact with contaminated fresh water into which the parasitic larvae are released by freshwater snails. Transmission of this disease happens when the infected person contaminates the freshwater bodies with their urine or faecal matter that contains the parasitic eggs which hatch in water. The larvae develop into adult schistosomes inside the human body and the females release eggs and continue the lifecycle by contaminating freshwater through urine and excreta. Others will remain inside the human body causing organ damage. There are mainly 2 types of Schistosomiasis. Intestinal and urogenital are caused by 5 different species of schistosomes.
Schistosomiasis symptoms will vary depending on your body's reaction to the parasitic eggs. The common signs of bilharzia may include the following:
- Itchy skin
- Muscle pain
- Reduced learning capacity in children
Intestinal Schistosomiasis will show the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Liver enlargement
- Fluid accumulation in the peritoneal cavity
- Hypertension of the abdominal blood vessels
- Enlargement of spleen
Urogenital Schistosomiasis will have the following signs:
- Blood in urine
- Fibrosis of the bladder or ureter
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney damage
- Genital lesions
- Vaginal bleeding
- Nodules in the vulva
- Pain during sexual intercourse
Who is at Risk?
Mainly children living in areas where sanitation and hygiene are poorly maintained put them at high risk of developing Schistosomiasis because children spend most of the time swimming and bathing in unhygienic and contaminated water. If you live in or travel to areas where Schistosomiasis is prevalent and comes in contact with water from canals, lakes, rivers, and streams are at high risk of developing schistosomiasis.
The causes of Schistosomiasis is when the human being comes in contact with fresh water contaminated with parasitic eggs will invade through the skin and enter into the blood vessels where they develop into adult worms and the females will produce eggs inside the host body. Some of these eggs migrate through urine and bowel and are shed into soil and water. Again the life cycle will be continued. All these will become the bilharzia cause.
How is Schistosomiasis Diagnosed?
Schistosomiasis diagnosis is done by a healthcare professional through physical examination for some of the common signs and symptoms. The doctor will also recommend Schistosomiasis tests like urine and stool specimens. Antigen and antibodies present in the blood, and urine also indicate the presence of infection. Chemical reagent strips are used to detect the presence of blood in the urine. Similarly, the Kato-Katz technique helps to detect the presence of parasitic eggs in urine and faecal matter.Serological and immunological tests are conducted to check infection in people living in non-endemic and low transmission areas as part of the bilharzia test.
How is Schistosomiasis treated?
Schistosomiasis treatment will start with bilharzia medicine for the affected area. The dosage will depend on the patient's weight and immunity. The drugs are effective only against adult worms and don't affect the immature worms and eggs. Usually, two doses are given per day. These drugs can disintegrate the worm rapidly and boost the immune system to attack the parasite. There may be some localized reactions which can be treated using corticosteroids. In severe cases, surgical care will include removal of granuloma, tumour masses, and ligation of esophageal varices.For Schistosomiasis treatment, the best place to visit is the Cure.fit, one of the leading healthcare providers in India. We have well qualified and experienced healthcare professionals under one roof. carefit is also known for its multi-city presence which makes it easy for everyone to get access to the nearest branch in their location. Once the branch is located, you may send a WhatsApp message to book an appointment at your convenience. Now you shall wait until you get the confirmation call after checking the doctor's availability. Meantime get ready with all blood and urine tests required in diagnosis and treatment.
How can Schistosomiasis be Prevented?
Schistosomiasis can be prevented by improving sanitation, hygiene, access to safe water sources, and snail control. Other preventions to be taken are:
- When you are in Schistosomiasis endemic areas, avoid taking bath and swimming in freshwater bodies like streams, canals, and lakes
- Drink boiled water. Boiling water at least for a minute will kill all harmful parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
- Take bath in hot water or water stored for at least two days.
- Towel dry vigorously after an accidental shower in freshwater to prevent the penetration of parasites into your skin.
All these will help in the effective prevention of Schistosomiasis.