Schistosomiasis: Ecological Interactions Among Schistosomes Snail Hosts, Human Hosts, and Fish Predators

Project: Research project

Project Details


Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic disease caused by trematodes of the genus Schistosoma, which alternates between human and snail hosts The disease now occurs in 74 countries and is ranked second to malaria as a cause of human morbidity by a parasitic agent. The proposed research program has been designed to determine if fish that feed on snails can be an effective biological control agent for schistosomiasis in Lake Malawi. Specifically, the researchers propose to (1) conduct seasonal surveys of the snail-feeding fishes and their snail prey on a lake-wide level; (2) identify and describe the shallow water snail-eating fishes in Lake Malawi; (3) determine habitat preferences of host snails; (4) determine seasonal snail infection status; and (5) determine infection and re-infection rates in human populations. These data will be used to develop models that predict the relationship of fish/snail populations to infection rates in the human population. By comparing these data to a historical database (i.e., pre-1988), researchers will be able to test the hypothesis that the reduction of snail-eating fishes, due to overfishing, led to the increase of schistosome infection in human populations inhabiting the lake shore of Lake Malawi.

If low population numbers of snail-eating fish can be linked to an increase in schistosomiasis, then researchers will be able to convince government officials to effectively manage these fish populations. The successful management of indigenous snail-eating fish would have a major impact on the quality of life of the human population in the region. In addition, these studies will provide supplemental information needed to design a comprehensive biological control program for human schistosomiasis in other parts of the world.

Effective start/end date9/15/022/28/09


  • National Science Foundation: $1,657,865.00


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