After many years of neglect, schistosomiasis control is going to scale. The strategy of choice is preventive chemotherapy, that is the repeated large-scale administration of praziquantel (a safe and highly efficacious drug) to at-risk populations. The frequency of praziquantel administration is based on endemicity, which usually is defined by prevalence data summarized at an arbitrarily chosen administrative level.
For an ensemble of 29 West and East African countries, we determined the annualized praziquantel treatment needs for the school-aged population, adhering to World Health Organization guidelines. Different administrative levels of prevalence aggregation were considered; country, province, district, and pixel level. Previously published results on spatially explicit schistosomiasis risk in the selected countries were employed to classify each area into distinct endemicity classes that govern the frequency of praziquantel administration.
Estimates of infection prevalence adjusted for the school-aged population in 2010 revealed that most countries are classified as moderately endemic for schistosomiasis (prevalence 10–50%), while four countries (i.e., Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone) are highly endemic (>50%). Overall, 72.7 million annualized praziquantel treatments (50% confidence interval (CI): 68.8–100.7 million) are required for the school-aged population if country-level schistosomiasis prevalence estimates are considered, and 81.5 million treatments (50% CI: 67.3–107.5 million) if estimation is based on a more refined spatial scale at the provincial level.
Praziquantel treatment needs may be over- or underestimated depending on the level of spatial aggregation. The distribution of schistosomiasis in Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritania, Uganda, and Zambia is rather uniform, and hence country-level risk estimates are sufficient to calculate treatment needs. On the other hand, countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, and Tanzania show large spatial heterogeneity in schistosomiasis risk, which should be taken into account for calculating treatment requirements.
More than 200 million people are affected by the snailborne disease schistosomiasis. The main strategy to control schistosomiasis is to regularly treat school-aged children with the drug praziquantel. The frequency of praziquantel treatment depends on the average prevalence of schistosomiasis, which can be defined as low (prevalence <10%), moderate (10–50%), or high (>50%). However, it remains unclear at which geographical scale these prevalence levels should be considered to avoid unnecessary treatments but still comply with local needs. We investigated the effect of the geographical scale for an ensemble of 29 West and East African countries using previously published model-based schistosomiasis risk estimates obtained at high spatial resolution. These estimates allow spatial risk aggregation at different geographical scales (i.e., country, region, district, or pixel level). More than 70 million praziquantel treatments are required every year for school-aged children if countrylevel estimates are used. On a more refined geographical scale (i.e., province), annualized praziquantel treatments increase by 12%. Depending on the averaged schistosomiasis prevalence and the spatial risk variation across a country, the difference in the estimated amount of praziquantel between country-level aggregation and other geographical scales might be very important, as for example in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Mali.