The grant will be used to expand UGARF's operational research on schistosomiasis, a debilitating tropical disease that affects millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. While the mortality rate for those infected is relatively low, the parasitic disease can damage internal organs and impair physical and cognitive development in children.
Schistosomiasis can be successfully treated with the drug praziquantel, but patients often are re-infected when they wade, swim, bathe, or wash in water where freshwater snails infected with larval parasites live. According to Dan Colley, director of the university's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and principal investigator for the project, the only way to eliminate the disease is to treat patients with praziquantel while reducing their risk of re-infection by improving sanitation and hygiene practices and eliminating the snails.
"We've reduced infection to very low levels in many areas, and we have good evidence that repeated treatments will prevent severe illness," said Colley. "Now, the hope is that we can move toward elimination of the disease in areas where control techniques have been most successful."