Mutapi lab featured in newsletter from African Paediatric Infectious Diseases Society

Research on urogeneital schistosomisasis from Francisca Mutapi's lab, based in the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research has been featured in the May 2014 newsletter of the African Paediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

Click on image above to read newsletter - feature starts on page 8

The newsletter features the work carried by PhD student Welcome Mkululi Wami, in the Parasite Epidemiology Group led by Francisca, which focuses on developing statistical models to explore the interaction between exposure and pathology associated with infection with Schistosoma haematobium, the organism that causes urogeneital schistosomiasis.

L to R:  Welcome Mkululi Wami, administration of praziquantal to pre-school child; school children queuing to be treated with praziquantal in Zimbabwe

Urogenital schistosomiasis (bilharzia), affects more than 100 million people worldwide, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, where > 90% of the morbidity cases are reported.  Children in endemic areas carry the heaviest burden of disease, and due to the chronic nature of the infection and continued susceptibility to re-infection, they can remain infected for most of their lives. Consequently, theyshow manifestations of schistosomiasis which include unirary tract damage (haematuria and dysuria) which can progress to bladder and kidney disorders, and poor growth and developemnet in the form of stunting, malnutrition and impaired memory and cognition.

In Zimbabwe, where the group conducts collaborative research, urogenital schistosomiasis is predominant among rural communities with poor sanitary facilities and limited access to safe water which necessitate regular contact with infected water.  According to the recent schistosomiasis national survey, (Ministry of Health, Zimbabwe MOHCW, 2010), schistosome infection is among the top 10 causes of hospital admissions in the country, emphasising its public health importance.  Mass drug administration programmes using praziquantel as a de-worming agent have previously foccused on treating school age children but have excluded pre-school children (typically aged 1 - 5 years old).

In the new research funded by teh Thrasher Reearch Fund, Welcome and his co-workers at the University of Edinburgh and their collaborators at the University of Zimbabwe and National Institutes of Health Research in Zimbabwe, sought to determine if the dynamics of urogenital schistosome infection and morbidity in pre-school aged children were comparable to those reported in primary schoolchildren and relate thier findings to the curent World Health Organization (WHO) recommended treatment regimens.

Their work so far showed that in fact there is widespread S. haematobium infection levels among preschool children, emphasising the need for their inclusion in schistosomiasis control programmes to reduce the risk of developing severe schistosomiasis.  In addition, the study highlighted the importance of developing sensitive infection diagnostic tools since accurate determination of patient infection levels has critical bearing on the required treatment regimen for the study population. Their findings are crucial for refinement and improvement of current schistosomiasis intervention strategies.

More details of this study can be found in

  • Wami WM, Nausch N, Bauer K, Midzi N, Gwisai R, Simmonds P, Mduluza T, Woolhouse M, Mutapi F.  Comparing parasitological vs serological determination of Schistosoma haematobium infection prevalence in preschool and primary school-aged children: implications for control programmes. Parasitology: 2014: 1-9.

More details on study activities from the Mutapi lab in Zimbabwe:

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