- /shis'teuh soh muy"euh sis/, n. Pathol.an infection caused by parasitic flukes of the genus Schistosoma, occurring commonly in eastern Asia and in tropical regions and transmitted to humans through feces-contaminated fresh water or snails: symptoms commonly include pain, anemia, and malfunction of the infected organ. Also called bilharziasis, snail fever.[1905-10; SCHISTOSOME + -IASIS]
* * *or bilharziasisDepending on the infecting species, thousands of eggs released by the females reach either the intestine or the bladder, are excreted in feces or urine, and hatch on contact with fresh water. The larvae invade snails, develop to the next stage, emerge into the water, and invade mammals to feed and breed in the bloodstream. An initial allergic reaction (inflammation, cough, late-afternoon fever, hives, liver tenderness) and blood in the stools and urine give way to a chronic stage, in which eggs impacted in the walls of organs cause fibrous thickening (fibrosis). This condition can lead to serious liver damage in the intestinal types and to bladder stones, fibrosis of other pelvic organs, and urinary-tract bacterial infection. In most cases, early diagnosis and persistent treatment to kill the adult worms ensure recovery.
* * *▪ diseasegroup of chronic disorders caused by small, parasitic flatworms (family Schistosomatidae) commonly called blood flukes. Schistosomiasis is characterized by inflammation of the intestines, bladder, liver, and other organs. Next to malaria, it is probably humanity's most serious parasitic infection, affecting at least 200 million people yearly in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. There schistosomiasis is most prevalent in rural communities in which standards of hygiene are low. The disease is ordinarily contracted by working, bathing, or swimming in water populated by snails (snail) that carry the worms. The parasites were first identified as a cause of the disease in the 1850s by Theodor Bilharz, a German pathologist working in Egypt.There are three main types of schistosomiasis, caused by closely related organisms: (1) Japonica, or Eastern, schistosomiasis is caused by Schistosoma japonicum, found in Japan, southern China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. (2) Manson's, or intestinal, schistosomiasis is caused by S. mansoni, found in Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and northern South America. (3) Vesical, or urinary, schistosomiasis is caused by S. haematobium, found throughout Africa and the Middle East.Depending on the species of worm, the female fluke, 10 to 25 mm (0.4 to 1 inch) long, releases 300 to 3,500 eggs daily into the blood. The eggs find their way into the intestine or bladder and are evacuated in the feces or urine. On contact with freshwater, the eggs hatch, releasing ciliated larvae that swim about until they find an appropriate snail host, in which they develop further. Fork-tailed larvae, the cercariae, subsequently emerge from the snail into the water and, upon contact with the skin of a mammal, drop their tails and penetrate the tissues, getting into the blood circulation, where they feed.The clinical course of schistosomiasis usually begins with an allergic reaction to the parasites and their by-products. Symptoms may include inflammation, cough, late-afternoon fever, skin eruption (giant urticaria), and swelling and tenderness of the liver. There may then be blood in the stools and urine in the more acute stage. The chronic stage of the disease is characterized by the gradual impactment of eggs into the walls of the body organs, leading to fibrous thickening and loss of elasticity. In the intestinal types there may be serious liver damage. In urinary schistosomiasis the eggs in the bladder may become focuses of stone formation; fibrosis may extend to the pelvic organs, and there may be secondary bacterial infection of the urinary tract. Occasionally, eggs may also cause lesions of such organs as the brain and lungs. During autopsy, fluke eggs have been detected in almost all body structures. Unless exposure is overwhelming, however, early diagnosis and persistent treatment usually ensure recovery.Diagnosis is established by a history of residence in or travel to areas where schistosomiasis is endemic, by the presence of blood in the stool or urine, and by the presence of the fluke in a blood smear. Treatment is by drugs aimed at killing the adult worms, which, if undisturbed, can live for 20 years and continue to cause damage. Several drugs have been used, but praziquantel, delivered orally, is the drug of choice. In efforts to control snail populations, such molluscicides as sodium pentachlorophenate, dinitro-o-cyclohexylphenol, and copper sulfate have been used extensively but with uneven success.
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