About the Global Schistosomiasis Atlas

Important - update note

This Atlas was printed in 1987 and yet for many countries, it remains one of the most comprehensive and useful documents today.


The following text is copied from the original document printed in 1987.

The Atlas is a compendium of data on the epidemiology of schistosomiasis. As a single source reference, it permits rapid comparison of diverse heterogeneous data otherwise not available. A perfect comprehensive atlas synthesizing the diversity of epidemiology, ecology and distribution of schistosomiasis is not feasible nor, perhaps, necessary. Recognizing the limitations of the data, the presence of errors and inconsistencies in presentation, there are some generalizations which may be useful in the organization and planning of schistosomiasis control. Further research may fill these gaps and may also be stimulated by these observations.

In the science of epidemiology phenomena are described and aetiologies are suggested but 'causation' per se is only proved and fully examined at the laboratory bench. This Atlas is part of the epidemiological enquiry into the determinants of the distribution of schistosomiasis. All data are as limited as its sources. The conclusions are even more restricted to the description of the situation at hand, and should not, therefore, be accepted as dogmatic generalizations.

The first treatise on the geographical distribution of schistomiasis was HIRSCH's Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology, originally published in German in 1864 and translated into 3 volumes in English by the New Sydenham Society in 1883 (8). Two other atlases have been made small-scale cartographic presentations of the global distribution of schistosomiais (13,14).

WHO has been instrumental in providing reliable reference material on the geographical distribution of schistosomiasis since 1949. WRIGHT prepared the last comprehensive review of the geographical distribution of schistosomiasis in 1973 (18). Many endemic countries have initiated national control programmes since that time and more information is available now.

I n view of the anticipated national efforts to undertake control of schistosomiasis, the Unit of Schistosomiasis of the WHO Parasitic Diseases Programme began, in 1976, to explore the global impact of schistosomiasis by means of a questionnaire survey among 121 Member States, including all those known to be endemic for schisotosomiasis. This survey aimed to determine the level of priority and implementation of activity in national schistosomiasis control programmes: 103 countries replied, 59 of which were endemic for schistosomiasis. The current estimated of 500-600 million persons exposed to schistosomiasis is based on this report (9).

In 1981, the Unit of Schistosomiasis of the WHO Parasitic Diseases Programme (PDP) and the Centre d'Etudes de Géographie Tropicale (CEGET) of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientique (CNRS - France) initiated the Atlas in connection with Bordeaux Universities II and III. The documentation was assembled by the PDP-WHO Documentation and Reference Service and the preparation of the text, maps, table and bibliographical lists were undertaken by the 'health geography team' working with the CEGET under Jean-Pierre Doumenge (5).

The data presented in the Atlas have been derived from epidemiological surveys reported in the available scientific literature, official reports from Member States, WHO Headquarters and Regional Offices and intergovernmental agencies such as OCCGE (Organisation de Coordination et de Coopération pour la lutte contre les Grandes Endémies) and OCEAC (Organisation de Coordination pour la lutte contre les Endémies en Afrique Centrale) WHO has had a privileged and mutally beneficial association with field workers in schistosomiasis whose informal reports comprise a 'fugitive literature' not available elsewhere.