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Schistosomiasis – causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 by

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasites called schistosomes. Different species of the parasitic fluke/worm spread the disease.

Schistosomiasis initially affects the intestines and the urinary system. However, since it lives in the blood, it can affect other body systems. Depending on the species of the parasite, different body parts can be affected by schistosomiasis. Some parasites target the lungs, spinal cord, or the brain and the central nervous system (CNS).

Individuals are usually infected via direct contact with contaminated fresh water where certain types of water snail live. These snails carry the worm, and a person may be infected after they paddle in, swim, or wash in contaminated water. Schistosomiasis can also infect people who eat food washed in untreated water.

Schistosomes enter the body when its larvae pass through the skin. The larvae emerge from snails and they enter the skin of people in the water. Once they infect people, the schistosomes develop into adult worms that live in the blood.

Schistosomiasis is also called bilharziosis or snail fever.

Known symptoms of schistosomiasis

Some individuals can experience minor skin irritation when the parasites penetrate the skin. However, most patients don’t have any symptoms until the eggs develop, which often takes place at least one to two months following initial skin penetration.

Initial symptoms of the condition include chills, a cough, fever, and muscle aches.

While other patients don’t have any symptoms during the first two months of infection, a handful of individuals can develop acute schistosomiasis/Katayama fever during this period. They often experience symptoms like:

  • Abdominal pain (liver/spleen area)
  • Bloody diarrhea/blood in the stools
  • Body aches
  • A cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise
  • Rash

A lot of patients with chronic schistosomiasis have symptoms that develop at least months or even years after initial exposure to the parasites.

Below are the side effects linked to chronic schistosomiasis:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Ascites/abdominal swelling
  • Bloody diarrhea/blood in the stools
  • Blood in the urine and painful urination
  • Chest pain and palpitations
  • Lesions on the vulva or the perianal area
  • Mental status changes
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath and coughing
  • Weakness

Individuals who travel to the following locations are at risk of developing schistosomiasis:

  • Africa – All fresh water in southern and sub-Saharan Africa, along with the great lakes, rivers, and smaller bodies of water. Transmission may occurs in the Nile River valley in Egypt.
  • The Caribbean – Antigua, Dominican Republic, Guadalupe, Martinique, Montserrat, and Saint Lucia (risk is low).
  • The Middle East – Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
  • South America – Including Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela.
  • Southern China
  • Southeast Asia – The Philippines, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia, central Indonesia, and the Mekong Delta.

Body systems harmed by schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis may cause the following complications:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Bleeding of the bladder
  • Eventual kidney failure
  • Liver damage
  • Ulceration of the bladder

Once the eggs enter the bloodstream and reach the vital organs, a patient can suffer from CNS heart, intestinal, and lung damage. Recurrent infections, especially over a period of years, can result in serious damage to the vital organs.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent schistosomiasis

The following foods or nutrients can help prevent schistosomiasis or address its side effects:

  • Acacia powder – Acacia powder has antimicrobial properties.
  • Caper bush – This herb has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Garlic – Garlic has anti-parasitic properties and its antioxidant properties can protect you against the oxidation triggered by the parasite.
  • Raw pumpkin seeds – Raw pumpkin seeds are rich in natural fats that can kill the eggs of parasites. The seeds contain cucurbitacin with anti-parasitic properties that can naturally expel any worms in the body.
  • Turmeric – Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help expel worms and heal the body. It contains curcumin that can repair damage caused by the infections and boost metabolism.
  • Wormseed – A traditional home remedy, wormseed can help treat the infections caused by different types of worms. Wormseed can eliminate toxins from the digestive system and fight off intestinal parasites.

Treatments, management plans for schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is usually treated using praziquantel, a medication given as a short course to clear up an infection. The medication is effective even if a patient has reached an advanced stage of the disease.

While usually effective, praziquantel will only work if the patient doesn’t suffer from significant damage or complications. Praziquantel can’t prevent re-infection.

Where to learn more


Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasites called schistosomes.

Initial symptoms of the condition include chills, cough, and fever.

Schistosomiasis may cause complications like bladder cancer and liver damage.

Schistosomiasis is usually treated using praziquantel, a medication given as a short course to clear up an infection.

Sources include:


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