Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic worms. It is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease. The parasites that cause schistosomiasis live in certain types of freshwater snails. The infectious form of the parasite emerge from the snail and then contaminate the water. People become infected when their skin comes into contact with the contaminated freshwater. Most human infections are caused by Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, or S. japonicum.
Why Is the Study of Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) a Priority for NIAID?
Although schistosomiasis is not found in the United States, more than 200 million people are infected worldwide.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
NIAID-supported researchers are studying many diverse aspects of schistosomiasis to find new ways to prevent and treat the disease. Due to the unique lifecycle of the schistosome, the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis, researchers can study the disease and its debilitating effects during various stages: the waterborne egg stage, the intermediate snail host, or the parasite’s adult phase which takes place in humans. With the recently sequenced genomes of multiple species of schistosome parasites, researchers can move forward in developing valuable vaccines and therapeutics for schistosomiasis.