Schistosomiasis Programme Review in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Schistosomiasis – caused by the S mekongi flatworm or fluke – is a debilitating and fatal disease transmitted in localised areas in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
Control programmes have been in place in both countries for over two decades. With the key intervention strategy of mass drug administration, the prevalence of the infection has now been reduced from above 60% in some villages to less than 5%. There is now a possibility of eliminating the disease as a public health problem in the near future.
A team comprising national and provincial programme managers, international experts and WHO staff from headquarters, the Western Pacific Regional Office and the country offices conducted a comprehensive review of the schistosomiasis control programme in Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with a view to providing recommendations on the next steps towards elimination.
The team found that impressive progress had been made in reducing human infections in both countries. However, the experts agreed that challenges remain. They include the need for a better understanding of the role of animal reservoirs in maintaining transmission, as well as more effective animal control strategies, reducing contact with unsafe river water and improving sanitation and water supply.
Until these challenges are met, annual mass drug administration in endemic villages will need to be continued, the experts said.