Scientific working group on Schistosomiasis
Meeting report. 14–16 November 2005, Geneva, Switzerland
More than 600 million people worldwide are at risk of schistosomiasis, and close to 200 million are actually infected continuously or intermittently. One of the main problems facing control of this major public health threat is, paradoxically, caused by previous successes in the battle against the disease.
The Scientific Working Group (SWG) on Schistosomiasis was convened in Geneva, 14–16 November 2005, to review the current situation in relation to research needs. Against a background of the need to better define the impact of schistosomiasis, discussions focused on the fact that the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) index, which is generally used as a yardstick when comparing the relative importance of diseases, does not accurately account for the full range of morbidities caused by schistosomiasis.
The SWG recommended that investigators regularly collect straightforward data on, for example, anaemia in endemic populations, and develop standardized measures for more intricate outcomes of infection such as on work capacity and cognition. The SWG also recognized the need to support training, capacity building and collaboration across borders. It encouraged TDR to expand its role in initiating and maintaining research networks, including forming partnerships with industry, particularly with small to medium-sized businesses in endemic countries. In addition, the SWG encouraged coordination and, when possible, integration between control activities targeting different diseases in the same geographical area. Acknowledging the link between schistosomiasis and poverty, the SWG pointed to the acute need for research on the social determinants of schistosomiasis as well as the need for health systems research to improve programming. The potential benefits of cross-disciplinary research were particularly emphasized.