Female Genital Schistosomiasis: Diagnosis and Treatment

Pages: 2 (774 words) Published: August 27, 2013
A few weeks ago, I introduced Huffington Post readers to a group of important diseases that most had never heard of -- neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). In that piece, I mentioned one disease that has a particularly devastating impact on girls and women in developing countries -- female genital schistosomiasis (FGS). Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or "snail fever," is a parasitic disease carried by fresh water snails. It is transmitted by contact with contaminated fresh water, so swimming, bathing, fishing and even domestic chores such as laundry and herding livestock can put people at risk of contracting the disease. Schistosomiasis infects more than 400 million people, mostly in sub-Sarahan Africa, where it is one of the most common parasitic infections on the continent. But one form of the disease has particular repercussions for women and their health and reproductive systems -- FGS. It causes horrific pain and bleeding in the uterus, cervix and lower genital tract, not to mention social stigma and depression. Right now, more than 100 million women and girls in Africa could suffer from this form of schistosomiasis. Unfortunately, the medical research community has much to learn about the disease. If medical students or young physicians happen to learn anything at all about schistosomiasis during their training (which they often do not), they discover it is an important parasitic infection affecting the bladder and sometimes the kidney. For decades, not many health care providers made the effort to study the total impact of schistosomiasis. We have only recently discovered that the same infections that can occur in the urinary tract are also found in the uterus, cervix and lower genital tracts in women and girls. Recent studies conducted by physicians from the University of Oslo and Weil Cornell Medical College confirm the lesions and tenderness caused by FGS lead to bleeding on contact -- causing a constant, severe pain that can be exacerbated...
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