Controversy persists about the optimal approach to drug-based control of schistosomiasis in high-risk communities. In a systematic review of published studies, we examined evidence for incremental benefits from repeated praziquantel dosing, given 2 to 8 weeks after an initial dose, in Schistosoma-endemic areas of Africa.
We performed systematic searches of electronic databases PubMed and EMBASE for relevant data using search terms ‘schistosomiasis’, ‘dosing’ and ‘praziquantel’ and hand searches of personal collections and bibliographies of recovered articles. In 10 reports meeting study criteria, improvements in parasitological treatment outcomes after two doses of praziquantel were greater for S. mansoni infection than for S. haematobium infection. Observed cure rates (positive to negative conversion in egg detection assays) were, for S. mansoni, 69–91% cure after two doses vs. 42–79% after one dose and, for S. haematobium, 46–99% cure after two doses vs. 37–93% after a single dose. Treatment benefits in terms of reduction in intensity (mean egg count) were also different for the two species—for S. mansoni, the 2-dose regimen yielded an weighted average 89% reduction in standardized egg counts compared to a 83% reduction after one dose; for S. haematobium, two doses gave a 93% reduction compared to a 94% reduction with a single dose. Cost-effectiveness analysis was performed based on Markov life path modeling.
Although schedules for repeated treatment with praziquantel require greater inputs in terms of direct costs and community participation, there are incremental benefits to this approach at an estimated cost of $153 (S. mansoni)–$211 (S. haematobium) per additional lifetime QALY gained by double treatment in school-based programs. More rapid reduction of infection-related disease may improve program adherence, and if, as an externality of the program, transmission can be reduced through more effective coverage, significant additional benefits are expected to accrue in the targeted communities.
Infection by Schistosoma worms causes serious disease among people who live in areas of Africa, South America, and Asia where these parasites are regularly transmitted. Although yearly treatment with the drug praziquantel is fairly effective in reducing or eliminating active infection, it does not cure everyone, and reinfection remains a continuing problem in high-risk communities. Studies have suggested that a repeat dose of praziquantel, given 2 to 8 weeks after the first dose, can improve cure rates and reduce remaining intensity of infections in population-based programs. Our systematic review of published research found that, on average, in Africa, such repeated dosing appears to offer particular advantages in the treatment of S. mansoni, the cause of intestinal schistosomiasis, but there was less consistent improvement after double-dosing for S. haematobium, the cause of urogenital schistosomiasis. Based on this evidence, we used a calibrated life-path model to predict the costs and benefits of a single-dose vs. a double-dose strategy in a typical high-risk community. Our projections suggest cost-effective incremental benefits from double dosing in terms of i) limiting a person's total years spent infected and ii) limiting the number of years they spend with heavy infection, with consequent improvements in quality of life.