Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Zambia and Tanzania, will be supported by the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), based at Imperial College London and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In these countries children and adults in affected areas will receive annual treatment through a national plan which will be supported by the SCI for a period of up to four years. Over this period the respective governments will gradually assume financial responsibility for schistosomiasis control.
Schistosomiasis is a disease affecting around 200 million people worldwide, but 85% of infections are confined to sub Saharan Africa. The disease affects anyone who comes into contact with fresh water contaminated with human sewage and the fresh water snails that harbour the schistosomiasis parasite. This has included Prince William, who recently contracted the disease during a stay in Africa.
The SCI's target is to deliver treatment, beginning in early 2004, to 15 million people, mainly of primary school age. Of these three million are in Tanzania, two million each in Zambia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and four million in Uganda, the first country selected for SCI support.
The treatment for schistosomiasis consists of a medicine called praziquantel given in tablet form. At the same time, patients will be given albendazole, a treatment used against intestinal worms which often co-infect with schistosomiasis. Both drugs will be provided once a year for up to four years. Alongside this there is also a substantial programme of surveillance and monitoring. Urine samples of all the people to be treated are assessed for the symptoms of schistosomiasis at the beginning of the programme; and they are then monitored annually to measure the degree of improvement in their health status.