Two recent surveys on infectious diseases in the country’s lakeshore areas conducted in 2017 and 2018 have demonstrated the presence of Biomphalaria pfeifferi snails, hosts of some parasites which cause bilharzia (intestinal schistosomiasis).
Schistosomiasis is an acute and chronic disease caused by parasitic worms. People are infected during routine agricultural, domestic, occupational, and recreational activities, which expose them to infested water.
According to the survey, epidemiologic examination of 175 local children at three primary schools in Mangochi confirmed emergence of intestinal schistosomiasis, which it warns, is of substantial public health concern in light of current control efforts.
Carried out by researchers Mohammad Alharbi, Peter Makaula, Lazarus Juziwelo and Seke Kayuni, warns that the current control efforts which consist only of annual praziquantel distribution in schools, are not enough.
According to the report, colonisation of Biomphalaria pfeifferi snails in Lake Malawi and surrounding water is of concern, especially because active Schistosoma mansoni infections were found in local children.
“This finding is of substantial public health concern in light of current control efforts, which consist only of annual praziquantel distribution in schools.
“We recommend increased surveillance of snails and characterisation of schistosomes, along with intensified control interventions to arrest further spread of intestinal schistosomiasis. We also recommend revising and updating health and travel advice given to shoreline community residents and tourists who use the lake.
The survey, published the the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) comes just days after Malawi was ranked second among 49 African countries that are meeting targets to eliminate tropical diseases (NTDs).