This study documented the population dynamics of Biomphalaria and associated natural infections with digenetic trematodes, along the shores of Lake Albert and Lake Victoria, recording local physicochemical factors. Over a two-and-a-half-year study period with monthly sampling, physicochemical factors were measured at 12 survey sites and all freshwater snails were collected. Retained Biomphalaria were subsequently monitored in laboratory aquaria for shedding trematode cercariae, which were classified as either human infective (Schistosoma mansoni) or nonhuman infective. The population dynamics of Biomphalaria differed by location and by lake and had positive relationship with pH (P < 0.001) in both lakes and negative relationship with conductivity (P = 0.04) in Lake Albert. Of the Biomphalaria collected in Lake Albert (N = 6,183), 8.9% were infected with digenetic trematodes of which 15.8% were shedding S. mansoni cercariae and 84.2% with nonhuman infective cercariae. In Lake Victoria, 2.1% of collected Biomphalaria (N = 13,172) were infected with digenetic trematodes with 13.9% shedding S. mansoni cercariae, 85.7% shedding nonhuman infective cercariae, and 0.4% of infected snails shedding both types of cercariae. Upon morphological identification, species of Biomphalaria infected included B. sudanica, B. pfeifferi, and B. stanleyi in Lake Albert and B. sudanica, B. pfeifferi, and B. choanomphala in Lake Victoria. The study found the physicochemical factors that influenced Biomphalaria population and infections. The number and extent of snails shedding S. mansoni cercariae illustrate the high risk of transmission within these lake settings. For better control of this disease, greater effort should be placed on reducing environmental contamination by improvement of local water sanitation and hygiene.
Over 200,000 people, most of them infected with Schistosoma mansoni inhabit 150 islands in Lake Victoria in Uganda. Although a programme to control the disease has been ongoing since 2003, its implementation in islands is inadequate due to high transport costs on water. In 2011 and 2012, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (GNNTD) through Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) provided financial support to ease treatment delivery on the islands and over the period, therapeutic coverage has been increasing. We conducted a study with an objective to assess community awareness of existence of the disease, its signs, symptoms, causes and transmission as well as attitude, practice and health seeking behavior.
This was a cross sectional descriptive study which used pre-tested interviewer administered questionnaire among purposively selected individuals in schools, health facilities and communities. Frequency distribution tables, graphs and cross tabulations were the main forms of data presentation.
Our results showed that there are numerous challenges that must be overcome to achieve effective control of schistosomiasis in the islands. Many people especially young men are constantly on the move from island to island in search for richer fishing grounds and such groups are commonly known to miss treatment by mass chemotherapy. Unfortunately case management in health facilities is very poor; health facilities are few and understaffed mainly with unskilled personnel who are overburdened by other illnesses such as malaria and HIV and the supply of praziquantel in health facilities is inadequate. Furthermore, sanitation is appalling, no clean water and community knowledge about schistosomiasis is low even among biomedical staff.
Rather than elimination, our results indicate that the programme should continue to target morbidity control beyond the 2020s until preventive measures have been instituted. The government should provide adequate trained health workers and stock praziquantel in all island health facilities.
Two Kato-Katz thick smears (Kato-Katzs) from a single stool are currently recommended for diagnosing Schistosoma mansoni infections to map areas for intervention. This ‘gold standard’ has low sensitivity at low infection intensities. The urine point-of-care circulating cathodic antigen test (POC-CCA) is potentially more sensitive but how accurately they detect S. mansoni after repeated praziquantel treatments, their suitability for measuring drug efficacy and their correlation with egg counts remain to be fully understood. We compared the accuracies of one to six Kato-Katzs and one POC-CCA for the diagnosis of S. mansoni in primary-school children who have received zero to ten praziquantel treatments. We determined the impact each diagnostic approach may have on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and drug-efficacy findings.
In a high S. mansoni endemic area of Uganda, three days of consecutive stool samples were collected from primary school-aged children (six - 12 years) at five time-points in year one: baseline, one-week-post-, four-weeks-post-, six-months-post-, and six-months-one-week-post-praziquantel and three time-points in years two and three: pre-, one-week-post- and four-weeks-post-praziquantel-treatment/retreatment (n = 1065). Two Kato-Katzs were performed on each stool. In parallel, one urine sample was collected and a single POC-CCA evaluated per child at each time-point in year one (n = 367). At baseline, diagnosis by two Kato-Katzs (sensitivity = 98.6%) or one POC-CCA (sensitivity = 91.7%, specificity = 75.0%) accurately predicted S. mansoni infections. However, one year later, a minimum of three Kato-Katzs, and two years later, five Kato-Katzs were required for accurate diagnosis (sensitivity >90%) and drug-efficacy evaluation. The POC-CCA was as sensitive as six Kato-Katzs four-weeks-post and six-months-post-treatment, if trace readings were classified as positive.
Six Kato-Katzs (two/stool from three stools) and/or one POC-CCA are required for M&E or drug-efficacy studies. Although unable to measure egg reduction rates, one POC-CCA appears to be more sensitive than six Kato-Katzs at four-weeks-post-praziquantel (drug efficacy) and six-months-post-praziquantel (M&E).
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease infecting over 200 million people. It remains a major public health concern despite treatment of over 120 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Accurate diagnostic methods are essential for monitoring drug efficacy and long-term control program success. The World Health Organization recommends two Kato-Katz thick smears (Kato-Katzs) from a single stool for Schistosoma mansoni diagnosis to map prevalence and areas for control interventions. Although highly specific, Kato-Katzs are thought to be insensitive at low egg counts. The recently refined urine point-of-care circulating cathodic antigen test (POC-CCA) has been proposed as a diagnostic alternative for mapping areas for interventions, and potentially for assessing drug efficacy. Over three years we assessed the accuracy of six Kato-Katzs and a single POC-CCA in detecting infections in Ugandan primary-school children at 11 time points with repeated praziquantel treatments. Our results demonstrate that two Kato-Katzs accurately detect S. mansoni infection pre-treatment, but at least three days of two Kato-Katzs per stool or one POC-CCA are required for annual monitoring and treatment evaluation and/or drug-efficacy studies. One POC-CCA may be more sensitive in measuring S. mansoni prevalence than six Kato-Katzs, but its accuracies for rigorous intensity measures are still to be proven.
Policy decisions for malaria control are often difficult to make as decision-makers have to carefully consider an array of options and respond to the needs of a large number of stakeholders. This study assessed the factors and specific objectives that influence malaria control policy decisions, as a crucial first step towards developing an inclusive malaria decision analysis support tool (MDAST).
Country-specific stakeholder engagement activities using structured questionnaires were carried out in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The survey respondents were drawn from a non-random purposeful sample of stakeholders, targeting individuals in ministries and non-governmental organizations whose policy decisions and actions are likely to have an impact on the status of malaria. Summary statistics across the three countries are presented in aggregate.
Important findings aggregated across countries included a belief that donor preferences and agendas were exerting too much influence on malaria policies in the countries. Respondents on average also thought that some relevant objectives such as engaging members of parliament by the agency responsible for malaria control in a particular country were not being given enough consideration in malaria decision-making. Factors found to influence decisions regarding specific malaria control strategies included donor agendas, costs, effectiveness of interventions, health and environmental impacts, compliance and/acceptance, financial sustainability, and vector resistance to insecticides.
Malaria control decision-makers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania take into account health and environmental impacts as well as cost implications of different intervention strategies. Further engagement of government legislators and other policy makers is needed in order to increase funding from domestic sources, reduce donor dependence, sustain interventions and consolidate current gains in malaria.
Malaria; Policy makers; Decision-analysis tools; MDAST; Multi-sectoral approach
Background. The poor correlation between allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (asIgE) and clinical signs of allergy in helminth infected populations suggests that helminth infections could protect against allergy by uncoupling asIgE from its effector mechanisms. We investigated this hypothesis in Ugandan schoolchildren coinfected with Schistosoma mansoni and hookworm.
Methods. Skin prick test (SPT) sensitivity to house dust mite allergen (HDM) and current wheeze were assessed pre-anthelmintic treatment. Nonspecific (anti-IgE), helminth-specific, and HDM-allergen-specific basophil histamine release (HR), plus helminth- and HDM-specific IgE and IgG4 responses were measured pre- and post-treatment.
Results. Nonspecific- and helminth-specific-HR, and associations between helminth-specific IgE and helminth-specific HR increased post-treatment. Hookworm infection appeared to modify the relationship between circulating levels of HDM-IgE and HR: a significant positive association was observed among children without detectable hookworm infection, but no association was observed among infected children. In addition, hookworm infection was associated with a significantly reduced risk of wheeze, and IgG4 to somatic adult hookworm antigen with a reduced risk of HDM-SPT sensitivity. There was no evidence for S. mansoni infection having a similar suppressive effect on HDM-HR or symptoms of allergy.
Conclusions. Basophil responsiveness appears suppressed during chronic helminth infection; at least in hookworm infection, this suppression may protect against allergy.
Schistosoma mansoni; schistosomiasis; hookworm; helminth infection; allergy; skin prick test; wheeze; basophils; histamine release; house dust mite
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of short non-coding RNA that play important roles in disease processes in animals and are present in a highly stable cell-free form in body fluids. Here, we examine the capacity of host and parasite miRNAs to serve as tissue or serum biomarkers of Schistosoma mansoni infection.
We used Exiqon miRNA microarrays to profile miRNA expression in the livers of mice infected with S. mansoni at 7 weeks post-infection. Thirty-three mouse miRNAs were differentially expressed in infected compared to naïve mice (>2 fold change, p<0.05) including miR-199a-3p, miR-199a-5p, miR-214 and miR-21, which have previously been associated with liver fibrosis in other settings. Five of the mouse miRNAs were also significantly elevated in serum by twelve weeks post-infection. Sequencing of small RNAs from serum confirmed the presence of these miRNAs and further revealed eleven parasite-derived miRNAs that were detectable by eight weeks post infection. Analysis of host and parasite miRNA abundance by qRT-PCR was extended to serum of patients from low and high infection sites in Zimbabwe and Uganda. The host-derived miRNAs failed to distinguish uninfected from infected individuals. However, analysis of three of the parasite-derived miRNAs (miR-277, miR-3479-3p and bantam) could detect infected individuals from low and high infection intensity sites with specificity/sensitivity values of 89%/80% and 80%/90%, respectively.
This work identifies parasite-derived miRNAs as novel markers of S. mansoni infection in both mice and humans, with the potential to be used with existing techniques to improve S. mansoni diagnosis. In contrast, although host miRNAs are differentially expressed in the liver during infection their abundance levels in serum are variable in human patients and may be useful in cases of extreme pathology but likely hold limited value for detecting prevalence of infection.
Schistosomiasis is a chronic disease caused by blood flukes that affects over 200 million people worldwide, of which 90% live in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the field setting schistosomiasis caused by S. mansoni is diagnosed by detection of parasite eggs in stool samples using microscopic techniques. Here we investigate the potential of microRNAs (miRNAs), a class of short noncoding RNAs, to act as biomarkers of S. mansoni infection. We have identified a specific subset of murine miRNAs whose expression is significantly altered in the liver between 6–12 weeks post infection. However their abundance in serum is not significantly different between naïve and S. mansoni-infected mice until twelve weeks post infection and they do not display consistent differential abundance in the serum of infected versus uninfected humans. In contrast, three parasite-derived miRNAs (miR-277, bantam and miR-3479-3p) were detected in the serum of infected mice and human patients and the combined detection of these miRNAs could distinguish S. mansoni infected from uninfected individuals from low and high infection intensity areas with 89%/80% or 80%/90% specificity/sensitivity, respectively. These results demonstrate that miRNAs of parasite origin are a new class of serum biomarker for detecting S. mansoni and likely other helminth infections.
Regular treatment with praziquantel (PZQ) is the strategy for human schistosomiasis control aiming to prevent morbidity in later life. With the recent resolution on schistosomiasis elimination by the 65th World Health Assembly, appropriate diagnostic tools to inform interventions are keys to their success. We present a discrete Markov chains modelling framework that deals with the longitudinal study design and the measurement error in the diagnostic methods under study. A longitudinal detailed dataset from Uganda, in which one or two doses of PZQ treatment were provided, was analyzed through Latent Markov Models (LMMs). The aim was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of Circulating Cathodic Antigen (CCA) and of double Kato-Katz (KK) faecal slides over three consecutive days for Schistosoma mansoni infection simultaneously by age group at baseline and at two follow-up times post treatment. Diagnostic test sensitivities and specificities and the true underlying infection prevalence over time as well as the probabilities of transitions between infected and uninfected states are provided. The estimated transition probability matrices provide parsimonious yet important insights into the re-infection and cure rates in the two age groups. We show that the CCA diagnostic performance remained constant after PZQ treatment and that this test was overall more sensitive but less specific than single-day double KK for the diagnosis of S. mansoni infection. The probability of clearing infection from baseline to 9 weeks was higher among those who received two PZQ doses compared to one PZQ dose for both age groups, with much higher re-infection rates among children compared to adolescents and adults. We recommend LMMs as a useful methodology for monitoring and evaluation and treatment decision research as well as CCA for mapping surveys of S. mansoni infection, although additional diagnostic tools should be incorporated in schistosomiasis elimination programs.
Schistosomiasis remains one of the most prevalent parasitic diseases in developing countries, with Schistosoma mansoni being the most widespread of the human-infecting schistosomes. For the routine surveillance of human S. mansoni infection more “field-applicable,” sensitive, and cost-effective diagnostics that replicate faecal samples over several consecutive days [the Kato-Katz (KK) method], are needed. We propose a statistical modelling framework in order to evaluate the diagnostic performance of the urine strip test for Circulating Cathodic Antigen (CCA) and single-day double KK measurements over three consecutive days for the diagnosis of S. mansoni infection in two different age groups from Uganda pre- and post- praziquantel (PZQ) treatment. We demonstrate that CCA is an appropriate tool for mapping surveys of S. mansoni infection. Our findings should allow for evaluation of the risk of potential misinterpretation with regards to diagnosis of S. mansoni infection through CCA or KK in this endemic setting pre- and post- PZQ treatment as the numbers and infection intensities are brought down, bridging existing important gaps in schistosomiasis diagnostics research. More generally, the proposed statistical analysis can reveal important biological insights from other diseases without gold standard diagnostic tools whenever longitudinal data are available.
Significant numbers of pre-school children are infected with Schistosoma mansoni in sub-Saharan Africa and are likely to play a role in parasite transmission. However, they are currently excluded from control programmes. Molecular phylogenetic studies have provided insights into the evolutionary origins and transmission dynamics of S. mansoni, but there has been no research into schistosome molecular epidemiology in pre-school children. Here, we investigated the genetic diversity and population structure of S. mansoni in pre-school children and mothers living in lakeshore communities in Uganda and monitored for changes over time after praziquantel treatment. Parasites were sampled from children (<6 years) and mothers enrolled in the longitudinal Schistosomiasis Mothers and Infants Study at baseline and at 6-, 12- and 18-month follow-up surveys. 1347 parasites from 35 mothers and 45 children were genotyped by direct sequencing of the cytochrome c oxidase (cox1) gene. The cox1 region was highly diverse with over 230 unique sequences identified. Parasite populations were genetically differentiated between lakes and non-synonymous mutations were more diverse at Lake Victoria than Lake Albert. Surprisingly, parasite populations sampled from children showed a similar genetic diversity to those sampled from mothers, pointing towards a non-linear relationship between duration of exposure and accumulation of parasite diversity. The genetic diversity six months after praziquantel treatment was similar to pre-treatment diversity. Our results confirm the substantial genetic diversity of S. mansoni in East Africa and provide significant insights into transmission dynamics within young children and mothers, important information for schistosomiasis control programmes.
Many pre-school children in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with the parasite Schistosoma mansoni, which causes intestinal schistosomiasis. However, there has been no work published on the molecular epidemiology of Schistosoma in children under six or the role that these children play in parasite transmission. We analysed the genetic structure of parasite populations collected from mothers and young children living on the shores of Lakes Albert and Victoria in Uganda. Parasite populations were different at the two lakes indicating that there is little flow of parasite genes between the lakes. We were surprised to discover a large amount of genetic variation in parasites sampled from both children and mothers, suggesting that genetic variation is not directly related to duration of exposure to infested water. In addition, we found some evidence that young children are involved in S. mansoni transmission. The substantial genetic variation of S. mansoni in young children suggests that these parasites could be operating as a source of a variety of genetic traits, including drug susceptibility. Overall our findings offer significant insights into population genetics of S. mansoni in pre-school children and their mothers and provide important information for effective control of intestinal schistosomiasis.
Calprotectin is a calcium-binding cytoplasmic protein found in neutrophils and increasingly used as a marker of bowel inflammation. Fecal occult blood (FOB) is also a dependable indicator of bowel morbidity. The objective of our study was to determine the applicability of these tests as surrogate markers of Schistosoma mansoni intestinal morbidity before and after treatment with praziquantel (PZQ).
216 children (ages 3–9 years old) from Buliisa District in Lake Albert, Uganda were examined and treated with PZQ at baseline in October 2012 with 211 of them re-examined 24 days later for S. mansoni and other soil transmitted helminths (STH). POC calprotectin and FOB assays were performed at both time points on a subset of children. Associations between the test results and infection were analysed by logistic regression.
Fecal calprotectin concentrations of 150–300 µg/g were associated with S. mansoni egg patent infection both at baseline and follow up (OR: 12.5 P = 0.05; OR: 6.8 P = 0.02). FOB had a very strong association with baseline anemia (OR: 9.2 P = 0.03) and medium and high egg intensity schistosomiasis at follow up (OR: 6.6 P = 0.03; OR: 51.3 P = 0.003). Both tests were strongly associated with heavy intensity S. mansoni infections. There was a significant decrease in FOB and calprotectin test positivity after PZQ treatment in those children who had egg patent schistosomiasis at baseline.
Both FOB and calprotectin rapid assays were found to correlate positively and strongly with egg patent S. mansoni infection with a positive ameloriation response after PZQ treatment indicative of short term reversion of morbidity. Both tests were appropriate for use in the field with excellent operational performance and reliability. Due to its lower-cost which makes its scale-up of use affordable, FOB could be immediately adopted as a monitoring tool for PC campaigns for efficacy evaluation before and after treatment.
The severity of intestinal schistosomiasis, a disease caused by Schistosoma mansoni infection, is likely under-reported in part due to the scarcity of field-appropriate morbidity markers. Downstream potential complications of this disease include anemia, failure to thrive, and chronic multi-organ damage. Point-of-care (POC) tools to monitor intestinal schistosomiasis in low resource settings are urgently needed to better quantify the burden of disease in endemic countries and to gauge the clinical impact of scale-up of preventive PC. For the present study in rural Uganda, fecal occult blood and fecal calprotectin were identified as potential surrogate markers of intestinal morbidity. We tested both POC tests and found that they were both associated with active schistosomiasis as detected by eggs in stool with significant decrease in test positivity after PZQ treatment demonstrating short term morbidity reversion. Calprotectin was a strong indicator of intestinal inflammation, however, owing to its high per-test price makes it difficult to scale-up accordingly. Conversely, fecal occult blood was technically feasible, low-cost and had optimal performance as a morbidity marker, hence we strongly advocate for its immediate inclusion as a monitoring tool for PC programs.
In schistosomiasis control programmes using mass chemotherapy, epidemiological and morbidity aspects of the disease need to be studied so as to monitor the impact of treatment, and make recommendations accordingly. These aspects were examined in the community of Musoli village along Lake Victoria in Mayuge district, highly endemic for Schistosoma mansoni infection.
Methodology and Principal Findings
A cross sectional descriptive study was undertaken in a randomly selected sample of 217 females and 229 males, with a mean age of 26 years (SD ±16, range 7–76 years). The prevalence of S. mansoni was 88.6% (95% CI: 85.6–91.5). The geometric mean intensity (GMI) of S. mansoni was 236.2 (95% CI: 198.5–460.9) eggs per gram (epg) faeces. Males had significantly higher GMI (370.2 epg) than females (132.6 epg) and age was also significantly associated with intensity of infection. Levels of water contact activities significantly influenced intensity of infection and the highest intensity of infection was found among people involved in fishing. However, organomegaly was not significantly associated with S. mansoni except for very heavy infection (>2000 epg). Liver image patterns C and D indicative of fibrosis were found in only 2.2% and 0.2%, respectively. S. mansoni intensity of infection was associated with portal vein dilation and abnormal spleen length. Anaemia was observed in 36.4% of the participants but it was not associated with S. mansoni infection intensity. Considering growth in children as one of the morbidity indicators of schistosomiasis, intensity of S. mansoni was significantly associated with stunting.
Although organ-related morbidity, with the exception of periportal fibrosis, and S. mansoni infections were highly prevalent, the two were only associated for individuals with very high infection intensities. These results contrast starkly with reports from Ugandan Lake Albert fishing communities in which periportal fibrosis is more prevalent.
Schistosoma mansoni infection is one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that perpetuate poverty, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. It is associated with hepatomegaly, splenomegaly or hepatosplenomegaly, liver fibrosis and anaemia. Control of schistosomiasis is now a priority in most endemic countries in Africa as a component of integrated control of NTDs using mass drug administration (MDA). Other than the new WHO strategic plan to eliminate schistosomiasis as a public health problem in WHO Africa region by 2020, the major target in the control of schistosomiasis has for a long time been reduction of its related morbidity. Epidemiological and morbidity studies are key in monitoring the impact of an intervention. However, epidemiology of schistosomiasis and its related morbidity have been shown to vary in different endemic areas and communities. We report on the epidemiology of S. mansoni infection and related morbidity in a community in Mayuge District along Lake Victoria in Uganda.
Naturally occurring human immunity to both schistosomiasis and hookworm infection has been associated with IgE responses against parasite allergen-like proteins. Since the two helminths frequently coinfect the same individuals, there is growing advocacy for their concurrent treatment. However, both helminths are known to exert strong immunomodulatory effects; therefore, coinfected individuals could have immune responses different from those characteristically seen in monoinfected individuals. In this study, we measured changes in IgE, IgG1, and IgG4 responses to schistosome and hookworm antigens, including the allergen-like proteins Schistosoma mansoni tegumental-allergen-like 1 protein (SmTAL1), SmTAL2, and Necator americanus Ancylostoma-secreted protein-2 (Na-ASP-2), following concurrent treatment of schoolchildren coinfected with Schistosoma mansoni and hookworm. Antibody responses to schistosome egg (soluble egg antigen and SmTAL2) or somatic adult hookworm (AHW) antigens either decreased after treatment or were unchanged, whereas those to schistosome worm antigens (soluble worm antigen and SmTAL1) increased. The observed different effects of treatment likely reflect the different modes of drug action and sites of infection for these two helminths. Importantly, there was no evidence that the simultaneous treatment of coinfected children with praziquantel and albendazole affected schistosome- and hookworm-specific humoral responses differently from those characteristic of populations in which only one organism is endemic; schistosome- and hookworm-specific responses were not associated, and there was no evidence for cross-regulation. Posttreatment increases in the levels of IgE to schistosome worm antigens were associated with lower Schistosoma mansoni reinfection intensity, while no associations between humoral responses to AHW antigen and protection from hookworm reinfection were observed in this sample of school-aged children.
We evaluated a commercial point-of-care circulating cathodic antigen (POC-CCA) test for assessing Schistosoma mansoni infection prevalence in areas at risk. Overall, 4,405 school-age children in Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda provided urine for POC-CCA testing and stool for Kato-Katz assays. By latent class analysis, one POC-CCA test was more sensitive (86% versus 62%) but less specific (72% versus ∼100%) than multiple Kato-Katz smears from one stool. However, only 1% of POC-CCA tests in a non-endemic area were false positives, suggesting the latent class analysis underestimated the POC-CCA specificity. Multivariable modeling estimated POC-CCA as significantly more sensitive than Kato-Katz at low infection intensities (< 100 eggs/gram stool). By linear regression, 72% prevalence among 9–12 year olds by POC-CCA corresponded to 50% prevalence by Kato-Katz, whereas 46% POC-CCA prevalence corresponded to 10% Kato-Katz prevalence. We conclude that one urine POC-CCA test can replace Kato-Katz testing for community-level S. mansoni prevalence mapping.
The World Health Organization now recommends the provision of praziquantel treatment to preschool-aged children infected with schistosomiasis. For intestinal schistosomiasis the current operational field diagnostic standard is examination of a thick Kato-Katz smear by microscopy prepared from a single stool specimen, and although pragmatic, this methodology has well-known shortcomings. Here, as a potential alternative, the performance of the urine circulating cathodic antigen (CCA) dipstick test was assessed in terms of disease-mapping and point-of-care diagnosis for intestinal schistosomiasis in preschool-aged children. Our manuscript reports on findings at baseline and at the end of a one-year longitudinal treatment study.
A total of 925 children (mean age 2.8 years) were initially recruited from six lakeshore villages representative of high, moderate and low levels of disease transmission. At baseline, all children were tested for intestinal schistosomiasis by microscopic examination of duplicate Kato-Katz smears prepared from a single stool faecal, by antigen detection with the urine CCA dipstick test and by serology with a commercially available ELISA test (as ‘gold-standard’) that measures host antibody titres to soluble egg antigens. As a point-of-care diagnosis, the urine CCA dipstick test achieved sensitivity and specificity values ranging from 52.5–63.2% and 57.7–75.6%, respectively, with faecal microscopy achieving very high specificities (>87%) but sensitivities as low as 16.7% in the low transmission setting.
The urine CCA test was shown to be more effective than faecal microscopy especially in lower transmission settings. The diagnostic performance of this test was not significantly impacted by treatment history or co-infections with other intestinal helminths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends that all children (2–16 year olds) living in schistosomiasis endemic areas should have regular access to praziquantel treatment. While there is extensive information in current literature on the geographical distribution of this disease in school-aged children (6–16 year olds), very little is known about its distribution in infants and preschool-aged children. Although pragmatic for resource-poor settings, the current field-standard method, the Kato-Katz smear, lacks diagnostic sensitivity, especially in lower transmission settings or where there is a large proportion of recently acquired infections. The latter is of particular importance for preschool-aged children as many will have pre-egg patent infections. Here we investigate a commercial rapid diagnostic test alternative to microscopy, using a dipstick test that detects worm antigens in the patient's urine, and show that it can achieve better performance than the current field standard both during mapping efforts and as a point-of-care diagnosis. Importantly, we found this diagnostic tool to be as effective before and after praziquantel treatment, able to provide semi-quantitative information on intensity of infection, and to be far more sensitive for identifying recently acquired infections than any other present alternatives.
Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is a chronic and potentially deadly parasitic disease that affects millions of people in (sub)tropical areas. An important partial immunity to Schistosoma infections does develop in disease endemic areas, but this takes many years of exposure and maturation of the immune system. Therefore, children are far more susceptible to re-infection after treatment than older children and adults. This age-dependent immunity or susceptibility to re-infection has been shown to be associated with specific antibody and T cell responses. Many antibodies generated during Schistosoma infection are directed against the numerous glycans expressed by Schistosoma. The nature of glycan epitopes recognized by antibodies in natural schistosomiasis infection serum is largely unknown.
The binding of serum antibodies to glycans can be analyzed efficiently and quantitatively using glycan microarray approaches. Very small amounts of a large number of glycans are presented on a solid surface allowing binding properties of various glycan binding proteins to be tested. We have generated a so-called shotgun glycan microarray containing natural N-glycan and lipid-glycan fractions derived from 4 different life stages of S. mansoni and applied this array to the analysis of IgG and IgM antibodies in sera from children and adults living in an endemic area. This resulted in the identification of differential glycan recognition profiles characteristic for the two different age groups, possibly reflecting differences in age or differences in length of exposure or infection.
Using the shotgun glycan microarray approach to study antibody response profiles against schistosome-derived glycan elements, we have defined groups of infected individuals as well as glycan element clusters to which antibody responses are directed in S. mansoni infections. These findings are significant for further exploration of Schistosoma glycan antigens in relation to immunity.
Schistosomes are parasitic worms that cause chronic and potentially deadly disease in millions of people in (sub)tropical areas. An important partial immunity to infection does develop but this takes many years of exposure and multiple infections. Therefore, children are far more susceptible to re-infection after treatment than adults. This immunological protection is associated with specific antibody and T cell responses. Many antibodies generated during Schistosoma infection are directed against carbohydrate chains (glycans) expressed by the parasite. The nature of the glycan epitopes recognized by antibodies in natural schistosomiasis infection serum is largely unknown. We have used a so-called shotgun glycan microarray approach to study differences in anti-glycan antibody responses between S. mansoni-infected children and adults. This resulted in the identification of differential glycan recognition profiles characteristic for the two different age groups that may reflect differences in age or differences in length of exposure or infection in people living in an endemic area.
Specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) responses are upregulated during chronic schistosome
infection and during allergy. These responses are tightly regulated during
schistosomiasis. We have previously shown that IgE regulation depends on the extent and
length of exposure to individual parasite allergen-like proteins. Here we compare the
development of IgE and immunoglobulin G4 (IgG4) responses to the differentially
expressed allergen-like proteins SmTAL1 and SmTAL2 among preschool-aged children from 2
villages with different levels of Schistosoma mansoni transmission. We
found a lack of SmTAL1 responsiveness among all children, but evidence for
IgG4-dependent IgE-SmTAL2 desensitization in both villages, occurring earlier
among children from the village where the level of transmission was greater. Findings
provide insights into the development and regulation of allergic-type immune
IgE; IgG4; schistosomiasis; Schistosoma mansoni; preschool-aged children; desensitization
In 2012 the WHO formally recognised that infants and preschool children are at significant risk of schistosomiasis and qualify for treatment with praziquantel (PZQ). Targeted surveys determining both the performance and safety of this drug are now needed in endemic areas. We have formally assessed parasitological cure and putative side-effects in a prospective cohort of Schistosoma mansoni-infected children (aged 5 months–7 years old) in lakeshore settings of Uganda.
From a total of 369 children found to be egg-patent for intestinal schistosomiasis, 305 were followed-up three to four weeks after PZQ treatment and infection status re-assessed. Separately, a previously tested side-effect questionnaire was employed before and 24 hours after PZQ treatment to assess incidence and amelioration of symptoms in young children and their mothers. While the overall observed parasitological cure was 56.4%, a significant difference was found between a sub-set of children who had a history of multiple PZQ treatments (between one and four in an 18 month period), where cure rate was 41.7%, and those who had never received treatment (cure rate was 77·6%). PZQ proved to be safe, with only mild reported side effects which cleared within a month after treatment. Prevalence of reported symptoms was significantly lower in children than in mothers, and fewer side-effects were reported upon subsequent rounds of PZQ treatment.
Our findings show that PZQ treatment of young children resulted in satisfactory cure rates, and marked reduction in egg-output, with only mild and transient reported side-effects. However, the cure rate is clearly lower in younger children and those with history of previous treatment. Cure rate, but not egg reduction rate, was also lower in children with heavier pre-intervention infection intensity. With chemotherapy now recommended as a long-term strategy for disease control in young children, research into optimising the periodicity of targeted treatment strategies is now crucial.
Although there is now extensive evidence for infection in preschool-aged children, and even a change in WHO guidelines endorsing treatment of this young age class in endemic areas, very little work has been published on the performance of praziquantel in children below the age of six. Previous work on praziquantel performance in preschool aged children focused on Schistosoma haematobium infections (urogenital schistosomiasis), with few observational studies published for S. mansoni infections (intestinal schistosomiasis). With a formalised protocol, we show that delivery of praziquantel to preschool-aged children living in endemic areas is safe and efficacious. However, this work has also shed light on dynamics never previously explored. History of previous treatment and age below three years proved to be determining factors for the outcome of treatment. This work provides firm evidence that in an endemic population certain young individuals were simply not cured (no egg or antigen cessation) after standard doses of praziquantel. This potential for non-cure should not go overlooked since exposure to drug without cure (either due to parasite or human factors) can lead to emergence and spread of resistance to praziquantel. Bearing in mind that praziquantel is the only commercially available drug against schistosomiasis, we recommend further research to understand these dynamics.
There is a need for field-applicable markers to assess morbidity associated with intestinal schistosomiasis, especially in the context of preventive chemotherapy in young children. We investigated whether fecal occult blood (FOB) point-of-care tests could be used to assess intestinal pathology over a 12-month period in a cohort of 382 children (< 5 years of age). We found a strong association between egg-patent schistosomiasis and FOB at baseline (odds ratio [OR] = 3.1, P < 0.0001), 6 months (OR = 3.4, P < 0.0001), and 12 months (OR = 3.5, P < 0.0001), despite repeated chemotherapy. There were tendencies for prevalence of FOB to decrease in children who became egg negative and increase in those who became egg positive. Our results demonstrate overt disease in children less than five years of age. We therefore propose that FOB is useful for assessing dynamics of intestinal morbidity in young children at the community level and monitoring changes in morbidity after mass chemotherapy.
To clarify the extent and putative transmission zone of bovine fasciolosis on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Uganda, conjoint parasitological and malacological surveys, inclusive of inspection of animals at slaughter, were undertaken at increasing altitudes.
A total of 239 cattle were sampled across eight locations ranging in elevation from 1112-2072 m. Faecal material was examined for presence of Fasciola eggs and sera were tested by ELISA for antibodies against Fasciola antigens. Bolstering this, 38 cattle at slaughter from 2 abattoir sites at 1150 m and 1947 m were inspected; in addition, wild buffalo stool (n = 10) opportunistically picked within Mount Elgon National Park (MENP) at 3640 m was examined. By faecal egg detection, prevalence of Fasciola gigantica at low (<1500 m) and high (>1500 m) altitude sites was 43.7% (95% CI 35.4-52.2) and 1.1% (95% CI 0.0-6.0), respectively, while by ELISA was much higher, low altitude - 77.9% (95% CI 69.7-85.4) and high altitude - 64.5% (95% CI 51.3-76.3). The decline in prevalence with increasing altitude was corroborated by abattoir sampling. Thirty seven aquatic habitats, ranging from 1139-3937 m in altitude were inspected for freshwater snails, 12 of which were within MENP. At lower altitudes, Lymnaea (Radix) natalensis was common, and often abundant, but at higher altitudes became much rarer ceasing to be found above 1800 m. On the other hand, Lymnaea (Galba) truncatula was found only at altitudes above 3000 m and within MENP alone. The snail identifications were confirmed by DNA analysis of the ribosomal 18S gene.
Active infections of F. gigantica in cattle are common in lower altitude settings but appear to diminish with increasing elevation. This is likely due to a growing paucity of intermediate hosts, specifically populations of L. natalensis for which a natural boundary of 1800 m appeared. Although F. hepatica was not encountered, the presence of several populations of L. truncatula at elevations over 3000 m point towards a potential transmission zone within MENP should this parasite be introduced.
A human IgE response to Sm22.6 (a dominant IgE target in Schistosoma mansoni) is associated with the development of partial immunity. Located inside the tegument, the molecule belongs to a family of proteins from parasitic platyhelminths, the Tegument-Allergen-Like proteins (TALs). In addition to containing dynein-light-chain domains, these TALs also contain EF-hand domains similar to those found in numerous EF-hand allergens.
S. mansoni genome searches revealed 13 members (SmTAL1-13) within the species. Recent microarray data demonstrated they have a wide range of life-cycle transcriptional profiles. We expressed SmTAL1 (Sm22.6), SmTAL2, 3, 4, 5 and 13 as recombinant proteins and measured IgE and IgG4 in 200 infected males (7–60 years) from a schistosomiasis endemic region in Uganda. For SmTAL1 and 3 (transcribed in schistosomula through adult-worms and adult-worms, respectively) and SmTAL5 (transcribed in cercariae through adult-worms), detectable IgE responses were rare in 7–9 year olds, but increased with age. At all ages, IgE to SmTAL2 (expressed constitutively), was rare while anti-SmTAL2 IgG4 was common. Levels of IgE and IgG4 to SmTAL4 and 13 (transcribed predominantly in the cercariae/skin stage) were all low.
We have not measured SmTAL protein abundance or exposure in live parasites, but the antibody data suggests to us that, in endemic areas, there is priming and boosting of IgE to adult-worm SmTALs by occasional death of long-lived worms, desensitization to egg SmTALs through continuous exposure to dying eggs and low immunogenicity of larval SmTALs due to immunosuppression in the skin by the parasite. Of these, it is the gradual increase in IgE to the worm antigens that parallels age-dependent immunity seen in endemic areas.
Examining the genome of the parasitic worm Schistosoma mansoni, we have identified and defined the structure of a family of 13 allergen-like proteins from the outer layer (tegument) of the organism. We term these molecules the S. mansoni Tegument-Allergen-Like proteins (SmTALs). During S. mansoni infection the human host is exposed to skin-invading larvae, adult-worms (living in the blood) and to parasite eggs. These life-stages have very different sizes, tissue composition and gene expression. We have produced 6 SmTAL proteins with different life-cycle transcriptional patterns and measured IgE antibody responses to them in 200 infected males from an S. mansoni endemic area. The binding of IgE to foreign proteins is important in allergy but also in defence against parasitic worms. Our results suggest that, in these endemic areas, there is priming and boosting of IgE responses to adult-worm SmTALs by the occasional death of long-lived worms, desensitization to egg SmTALs due to continuous exposure to dying eggs and low immunogenicity of larval SmTALs perhaps due to immunosuppression in the skin by the parasite. Schistosome infection is a major health problem in many countries. Our work provides insight into what provokes and controls the antibody responses associated with human immunity to this parasite.
Background. Plasmodium–helminth coinfection can have a number of consequences for infected hosts, yet our knowledge of the epidemiology of coinfection across multiple settings is limited. This study investigates the distribution and heterogeneity of coinfection with Plasmodium falciparum and 3 major helminth species across East Africa.
Methods. Cross-sectional parasite surveys were conducted among 28 050 children in 299 schools across a range of environmental settings in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Data on individual, household, and environmental risk factors were collected and a spatially explicit Bayesian modeling framework was used to investigate heterogeneities of species infection and coinfection and their risk factors as well as school- and individual-level associations between species.
Results. Broad-scale geographical patterns of Plasmodium–helminth coinfection are strongly influenced by the least common infection and by species-specific environmental factors. At the individual level, there is an enduring positive association between P. falciparum and hookworm but no association between P. falciparum and Schistosoma species. However, the relative importance of such within-individual associations is less than the role of spatial factors in influencing coinfection risks.
Conclusions. Patterns of coinfection seem to be influenced more by the distribution of the least common species and its environmental risk factors, rather than any enduring within-individual associations.
Integrated vector management (IVM) is increasingly being recommended as an option for sustainable malaria control. However, many malaria-endemic countries lack a policy framework to guide and promote the approach. The objective of the study was to assess knowledge and perceptions in relation to current malaria vector control policy and IVM in Uganda, and to make recommendations for consideration during future development of a specific IVM policy.
The study used a structured questionnaire to interview 34 individuals working at technical or policy-making levels in health, environment, agriculture and fisheries sectors. Specific questions on IVM focused on the following key elements of the approach: integration of chemical and non-chemical interventions of vector control; evidence-based decision making; inter-sectoral collaboration; capacity building; legislation; advocacy and community mobilization.
All participants were familiar with the term IVM and knew various conventional malaria vector control (MVC) methods. Only 75% thought that Uganda had a MVC policy. Eighty percent (80%) felt there was inter-sectoral collaboration towards IVM, but that it was poor due to financial constraints, difficulties in involving all possible sectors and political differences. The health, environment and agricultural sectors were cited as key areas requiring cooperation in order for IVM to succeed. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of participants responded that communities were actively being involved in MVC, while 48% felt that the use of research results for evidence-based decision making was inadequate or poor. A majority of the participants felt that malaria research in Uganda was rarely used to facilitate policy changes. Suggestions by participants for formulation of specific and effective IVM policy included: revising the MVC policy and IVM-related policies in other sectors into a single, unified IVM policy and, using legislation to enforce IVM in development projects.
Integrated management of malaria vectors in Uganda remains an underdeveloped component of malaria control policy. Cooperation between the health and other sectors needs strengthening and funding for MVC increased in order to develop and effectively implement an appropriate IVM policy. Continuous engagement of communities by government as well as monitoring and evaluation of vector control programmes will be crucial for sustaining IVM in the country.
Malaria; Integrated vector management; Policy development; Uganda
It is widely advocated that integrated strategies for the control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are cost-effective in comparison to vertical disease-specific programmes. A prerequisite for implementation of control interventions is the availability of baseline data of prevalence, including the population at risk and disease overlap. Despite extensive literature on the distribution of schistosomiasis on the mainland in Uganda, there has been a knowledge gap for the prevalence of co-infections with malaria, particularly for island communities in Lake Victoria. In this study, nine lakeshore and island districts were surveyed for the prevalence of NTDs and malaria, as well as educational and health infrastructure.
A total of 203 communities were surveyed, including over 5000 school-age children. Varying levels of existing health infrastructure were observed between districts, with only Jinja District regularly treating people for NTDs. Community medicine distributors (CMD) were identified and trained in drug delivery to strengthen capacity. Prevalence levels of intestinal schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis were assessed via Kato-Katz thick smears of stool and malaria prevalence determined by microscopy of fingerprick blood samples. Prevalence levels were 40.8%, 26.04% and 46.4%, respectively, while the prevalence of co-infection by Schistosoma mansoni and Plasmodium spp. was 23.5%. Socio-economic status was strongly associated as a risk factor for positive infection status with one or more of these diseases.
These results emphasise the challenges of providing wide-scale coverage of health infrastructure and drug distribution in remote lakeshore communities. The data further indicate that co-infections with malaria and NTDs are common, implying that integrated interventions for NTDs and malaria are likely to maximize cost-effectiveness and sustainability of disease control efforts.
Neglected tropical diseases; Schistosoma mansoni; Plasmodium falciparum; hookworm; Ascaris lumbricoides; Trichuris trichiura; integrated control; mass drug administration
Point-prevalence recording of the distribution of tropical parasitic diseases at village level is usually sufficient for general monitoring and surveillance. Whilst within-village spatial patterning of diseases exists, and can be important, mapping infected cases in a household-by-household setting is arduous and time consuming. With the development of low-cost GPS-data loggers (< £40) and available GoogleEarthTM satellite imagery, we present a field-applicable method based on crowdsourcing for rapid identification of infected cases (intestinal schistosomiasis, malaria and hookworm) by household. A total of 126 mothers with their 247 preschool children from Bukoba village (Mayuge District, Uganda) were examined with half of these mothers given a GPS-data logger to walk home with, returning the unit the same day for data off-loading, after which, households were assigned GPS coordinates. A satellite image of Bukoba was annotated with households denoting the infection status of each mother and child. General prevalence of intestinal schistosomiasis, malaria and hookworm in mothers and children was: 27.2 vs 7.7%, 28.6 vs 87.0% and 60.0 vs 22.3%, respectively. Different spatial patterns of disease could be identified likely representing the intrinsic differences in parasite biology and interplay with human behaviour(s) across this local landscape providing a better insight into reasons for disease micro-patterning.
Intestinal schistosomiasis; Malaria; Hookworm; Co-infection; I-GotU; Crowdsourcing