Last revised by Rohit Sharma on 22 Sep 2019

Schistosomiasis (also referred to as bilharzia or snail fever) is the result of infection by blood fluke (trematode worm) of the Schistosoma species.

Schistosomiasis is very common, affecting over 200 million people, with the vast majority (85%) in Africa. It is prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas, especially in rural regions 1,2.  

There are five species of the blood fluke (trematode worm) Schistosoma species that cause disease in humans 1:

  • Schistosoma haematobium
  • S. mansoni
  • S. japononicum
  • S. intercalatum
  • S. mekongi

Larvae are released from snails (intermediate host) into water and penetrate human skin (definitive host) exposed to the infected water. These larvae travel to the lungs (pulmonary schistosomiasis) and liver of the human host, where they reside until they mature. After maturation, the adult worm invades the bloodstream and deposited in local tissues, invoking a granulomatous response. 

Schistosomiasis can manifest in a number of ways 3,4

In 1851, Theodor Bilharz (1825-1862), a German physician, described Schistosoma haematobium 5, thus the alternative name 'bilharzia'. Katsurada, in 1904, recognized Schistosoma japonicum 5. In 1907, Sambon separated Schistosoma mansoni from Schistosoma haematobium 5

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