According to a Danish study, schistosomiasis, the parasite that causes snail fever may cause harm to the reproductive organs of women susceptible to the parasite. The parasite lives in waterways commonly used for bathing and clothes washing. Studies have been completed showing significant organ damage from the parasite, but a detailed study has not been completed focusing on the effect of the parasite on reproductive health.

Researchers note that the six million people that live in Africa are at increased risk, due to bathing and washing practices. Both men and women are equally at risk of infection. This new study completed by LIFE – Faculty of Life Sciences, discusses the reproductive effects of the parasite in detail.

What researchers found was the parasite in question, causes sores and perforations in female reproductive organs by laying eggs inside the uterus. The result is a chronic condition that can last a lifetime. With open sores, the female body is more susceptible to infection, including HIV.

Men were also found to be affected by the parasite. Internal infection occurs and that infection is then passed like a sexually transmitted disease through semen. Local men have talked of a connection between the parasite and infertility for many years, but this is the first medical study to prove that feeling correct.

Travelers to regions most prominently affected by parasite infection should be aware of the risk of infection. One-off cases of infection appear in Denmark every year, most often in people traveling to Malawi or other affected region.

To brainstorm possible treatments and prevention, Bill and Melinda Gates are funding a workshop in Copenhagen where senior researchers can gather and discuss the next best step.

Source: Birgitte Vennervald. University of Copenhagen. 1 November, 2010.

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