Bilharzia in the Philippines: past, present, and future
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Schistosomiasis japonica has a long history in the Philippines. In 1975, 24 endemic provinces were identified in the northern, central, and southern islands of the Philippines. More than five million people were at risk, with approximately one million infected. In 2003, new foci of infection were found in two provinces in the north and central areas. For the past 30 years, human mass drug administration (MDA), utilizing the drug praziquantel, has been the mainstay of control in the country. Recent studies have shown that the schistosomiasis prevalence ranges from 1% to 50% within different endemic zones. Severe end-organ morbidity is still present in many endemic areas, particularly in remote villages with poor treatment coverage. Moreover, subtle morbidities such as growth retardation, malnutrition, anemia, and poor cognitive function in infected children persist. There is now strong evidence that large mammals (e.g. water buffaloes, cattle) contribute significantly to disease transmission, complicating control efforts. Given the zoonotic nature of schistosomiasis in the Philippines, it is evident that the incidence, prevalence, and morbidity of the disease will not be controlled by MDA alone. There is a need for innovative cost-effective strategies to control schistosomiasis in the long term.
International Journal of Infectious Diseases
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