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Fighting Infectious Disease at its Source

Fri Oct 1, 2021
Second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease in the world, schistosomiasis annually infects 200 million people and claims 200,000 lives. Another 800 million people are at risk, predominantly across Africa, eastern Latin America and southeast Asia. While there are existing cures, reinfection rates are very high.Jason Rohr, the Ludmilla F., Stephen J. and Robert T. Galla College Professor of Biological Sciences and chair of the biology department, works in more than 20 Senegalese villages alongside local partners such as Espoir Pour La Santé (EPLS) and Station d’Innovation Aquacole to address issues related to schistosomiasis.The infection is caused by a parasite that resides on snails, which live in weedy rivers and lakes where people drink, bathe, and launder. Rohr realized the number of parasites would decrease if the number of snails decreased, which could be achieved if the weeds decreased. Working alongside local partners in St. Louis, Senegal, they started weeding the water. Immediately, disease reinfection rates fell. What’s more, the villagers used the weeds to feed livestock and as compost fertilizer to increase food production. This became an added incentive for the community to remove the vegetation. A simple solution helped solve problems in disease, energy, and food scarcity.Learn more: