Filipino and international researchers confirmed two new endemic foci of schistosomiasis infections which were reported in the northernmost and central parts of the country. The center of the parasitic disease, schistosomiasis, were found prevalent in Gonzaga, Cagayan and Calatrava, Negros Occidental.
The reported new foci of schistosomiasis infections cause a serious problem because the endemic areas are already burdened with other infectious diseases like tuberculosis and it would require specific resources to control the disease, according to researchers from University of the Philippines Manila and Dokkyo Medical University Japan.
Schistosomiasis is considered as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) with about 12 million Filipinos affected and about 2.5 million which are directly exposed. It affects 28 provinces in the Philippines where there is continuous rainfall throughout the year. The known endemic areas in the Philippines are the provinces of Mindoro Oriental and Sorsogon, North, East, and Western Samar, Leyte, and Bohol, and most provinces in Mindanao with the exception of Misamis Oriental, Davao Oriental, and Maguindanao.
It is an infection usually caused by Schistosoma japonicum which is endemic particularly among rice farmers and fishermen. People may be infected from fresh water contaminated with larval cercariae, which may develop in snails. The infection causes significant delay in growth and development in children and may later lead to hypertension and esophageal varices.
However, according to Research Institute for Tropical medicine (RITM), the prevalence of schistosomiasis infections can be controlled and prevented through drug treatment, snail control, improved sanitation, and health education. Although, given the impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions, the possibility of increase in the transmission of schistosomiasis in Gonzaga and Calatrava, the two endemic areas, is expected.
Researchers underlined that in the aftermath of the latest typhoons that devastated the country, there is an immediate need to conduct a survey on schistosomiasis to determine how far the disease and the snails could have spread.