Schistosomiasis in the People's Republic of China: Prospects and Challenges for the 21st Century

  1. Allen G. P. Ross1,
  2. Adrian C. Sleigh1,
  3. Yuesheng Li1,2,
  4. George M. Davis3,,
  5. Gail M. Williams1,
  6. Zheng Jiang4,
  7. Zheng Feng4, and
  8. Donald P. McManus1,*
  1. Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health and Nutrition, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, and the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4029, Australia1;
  2. Hunan Institute of Parasitic Diseases, Yueyang,2 and
  3. Institute for Parasitic Diseases, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Shanghai 200025,4 People's Republic of China; and
  4. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 191033

SUMMARY

Schistosomiasis japonica is a serious communicable disease and a major disease risk for more than 30 million people living in the tropical and subtropical zones of China. Infection remains a major public health concern despite 45 years of intensive control efforts. It is estimated that 865,000 people and 100,250 bovines are today infected in the provinces where the disease is endemic, and its transmission continues. Unlike the other schistosome species known to infect humans, the oriental schistosome, Schistosoma japonicum, is a true zoonotic organism, with a range of mammalian reservoirs, making control efforts extremely difficult. Clinical features of schistosomiasis range from fever, headache, and lethargy to severe fibro-obstructive pathology leading to portal hypertension, ascites, and hepatosplenomegaly, which can cause premature death. Infected children are stunted and have cognitive defects impairing memory and learning ability. Current control programs are heavily based on community chemotherapy with a single dose of the drug praziquantel, but vaccines (for use in bovines and humans) in combination with other control strategies are needed to make elimination of the disease possible. In this article, we provide an overview of the biology, epidemiology, clinical features, and prospects for control of oriental schistosomiasis in the People's Republic of China.

FOOTNOTES

  • * Corresponding author. Mailing address: Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health and Nutrition, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, P.O. Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland 4029, Australia. Phone: 617 33620401. Fax: 617 33620104. E-mail: donM{at}qimr.edu.au.

  • Present address: Department of Microbiology and Tropical Medicine, George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20037.

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