Schistosomiasis infections are linked to increased HIV onward transmission, HIV acquisition in HIV negative women with urogenital schistosomiasis, and progression to death in HIV positive women, reported researchers in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm and is second only to malaria in terms of parasitic diseases with the most global health impact. Schistosomiasis may cause lesions in the genital tract and has been shown--in cross-sectional studies-- to be associated with HIV prevalence.
‘Of the 34 million people worldwide with HIV, and the 200 million with schistosomiasis, the majority live in Africa-- where millions of people are simultaneously infected with both diseases. ’
In the new work, Dr. Kristin Wall, of Emory University, USA, and colleagues retrospectively tested the blood sera of 2,145 people enrolled in a cohort of HIV-discordant heterosexual couples in Zambia. Each sample was measured for schistosome-specific antibody levels. In addition, health information including HIV status over time and death was available for the cohort.
59% of all participants were positive for a schistotome-specific antibody response. In addition, among women, schistosomiasis was associated with increased acquisition of HIV (in HIV negative women with urogenital schistosomiasis) and increased progression to death (in HIV positive women).
"Since treatment of schistosome infections with praziquantel is inexpensive, effective, and safe, schistosomiasis prevention and treatment strategies may be a cost-effective way to reduce not only the symptoms associated with the infection, but also new cases of HIV and death among HIV+ persons," the researchers say.