By Dr Michael Templeton, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
With World Water Day approaching on 22 March, research at Imperial College London is highlighting yet another example of why access to clean water is so vitally important to human health.
The research is seeking to quantify the role of access to clean water in reducing the odds of becoming infected with the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis.
It has been estimated that 200 million people in developing countries are infected with the parasite causing this disease, which manifests itself in a range of symptoms, including enlargement of the liver and spleen, anaemia, increased risk of bladder cancer, exacerbation of the transmission of HIV and its progression to AIDS, and in extreme cases seizures.
By Professor Alan Fenwick OBE, Director of SCI (Schistosomiasis Control Initiative), Imperial College, London)
Schistosomiasis is a type of infection caused by parasites that live in fresh water, such as rivers or lakes, in subtropical and tropical regions worldwide. It is also known as bilharzia.
The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) at Imperial College London supports Ministries of Health and Education in 16 countries to deliver medicines to treat people infected with schistosomiasis and three intestinal worms. The medicines are donated by various pharmaceutical companies, Merck KgGA (praziquantel), GSK (albendazle) and Johnson and Johnson (mebendazole), and for the most part, the targets are school aged children.
Gabrielle Prager, Winner of IGHI’s 2013 Student Challenges Competition guides us through her journey throughout the contest and the next steps for her research project.
This is the problem: In 2011, 243 million people required treatment for schistosomiasis. 28.1 million were reported to have received that treatment. Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease. What is it? It is a blood dwelling fluke. How is it treated? Mass Drug Administration with Praziquantel has been the mainstay of most treatment programmes. Uganda was the first country in Africa to initiate a national control programme coordinated by the Ministry of Health with technical and financial support from the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI).