SCIENTIESTS LAUNCH A FREE BILHARZIA STUDY AMONG KENYAN COMMUNITIES
Posted by African Press International on December 17, 2010
By Dickens Wasonga.\Kenya
The Kenya Medical Research Institute in collaboration with the America’s Centers for Disease Control have launched a five-year period study to compare school and community based mass drug administration delivery strategies for control of
bilharzia along lake Victoria’s riparian districts where prevalence rates are high.
Speaking during the launch at a Kisumu hotel, the principal investigator Dr. Pauline Mwinzi of KEMRI said the study to compare Bilharzia control strategies in the western Kenya region will target over 150 communities and is expected to
bring people together towards ensuring a Bilharzia free communities.
The research study will determine the best combination of strategies for controlling the water borne disease which affects commonly communities living along the shores of lake Victoria where prevalence rates are as high as 75 per cent.
Speaking at the function the investigator said the operational studies will include 150 communities where the prevalence of schistosomiasis is over 25%, and 75 communities where the rates are moderate and at between 10-25%.
The scientist said identified communities will be randomized into two arms and further into 6 arms, half of which will receive community wide treatment and the other half school based treatment with variations over the years to determine the best frequency and strategy for mass drug administration.
In year 5, a final evaluation of communities in all study arms will be performed.
The primary outcome will be comparison of schistosomiasis prevalence and intensity levels among treatment arms to identify the best strategies for mass drug administration. Bilharzia is a neglected parasitic disease caused by several species of fluke.
Although it has a low mortality rate, schistosomiasis can damage internal organs and, in children, impair growth and development. It is the second most socio-economic devastating parasitic disease after malaria.
This disease is most commonly found in Asia, Africa, and South America, especially in areas where the water contains numerous freshwater snails, which carry the parasite.
Infections in the Lake Victoria basin in Western Kenya are associated with lake water contact. Seven districts in the region have been picked for the study and includes Bondo, Rachuonyo North, Homa Bay, Rarieda, Kisumu east and west and Nyakach.
Previous studies demonstrated an association between school proximity to the lake and the prevalence of the disease, suggesting that the lake is the primary source of schistosomiasis transmission in this area.
The researchers said here, prevalence levels can go up to 100% and school children are the most affected.
Currently, the WHO recommended strategy for control is school based mass drug administration with praziquantel, the first line drug of choice.
Dr. Mwinzi said that although the drug which is administered orally will be distributed by the community health workers and given one dose per year. She said the drug was available and cheap but lacks the demand since very few people who have the disease visit health facilities to seek treatment.
â?~â?TThis is what we target to reverse. The current strategy which is school based also does not reach all other people at risk of these infections including fishermen and entire communities who use the Lake for livelihood, she added.
Apart from Kenya, four other countries namely Mozambique, Niger, Uganda and Tanzania will also be taking part in the study in Africa.
The scientists said the five-year study will cost Ksh.120 million to be provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
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