A systematic literature review of schistosomiasis in urban and peri-urban settings

25 Feb 2021
Katharina Klohe ,Benjamin G. Koudou,Alan Fenwick,Fiona Fleming,Amadou Garba,Anouk Gouvras,Emma M. Harding-Esch,Stefanie Knopp,David Molyneux,Susan D’Souza,Jürg Utzinger,Penelope Vounatsou,Johannes Waltz,Yaobi Zhang,David Rollinson


Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by trematode worms of the genus Schistosoma and belongs to the neglected tropical diseases. The disease has been reported in 78 countries, with around 290.8 million people in need of treatment in 2018. Schistosomiasis is predominantly considered a rural disease with a subsequent focus of research and control activities in rural settings. Over the past decades, occurrence and even expansion of schistosomiasis foci in peri-urban and urban settings have increasingly been observed. Rural–urban migration in low- and middle-income countries and subsequent rapid and unplanned urbanization are thought to explain these observations. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the world population is already estimated to live in urban areas, with a projected increase to 68% by 2050. In light of rapid urbanization and the efforts to control morbidity and ultimately achieve elimination of schistosomiasis, it is important to deepen our understanding of the occurrence, prevalence, and transmission of schistosomiasis in urban and peri-urban settings. A systematic literature review looking at urban and peri-urban schistosomiasis was therefore carried out as a first step to address the research and mapping gap.


Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, a systematic computer-aided literature review was carried out using PubMed, ScienceDirect, and the World Health Organization Database in November 2019, which was updated in March 2020. Only papers for which at least the abstract was available in English were used. Relevant publications were screened, duplicates were removed, guidelines for eligibility were applied, and eligible studies were reviewed. Studies looking at human Schistosoma infections, prevalence, and intensity of infection in urban and peri-urban settings were included as well as those focusing on the intermediate host snails.

Principal findings

A total of 248 publications met the inclusion criteria. The selected studies confirm that schistosomiasis is prevalent in peri-urban and urban areas in the countries assessed. Earlier studies report higher prevalence levels in urban settings compared to data extracted from more recent publications, yet the challenge of migration, rapid uncontrolled urbanization, and resulting poor living conditions highlight the potential for continuous or even newly established transmission to take place.


The review indicates that schistosomiasis has long existed in urban and peri-urban areas and remains a public health problem. There is, however, a challenge of comparability of settings due to the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes urban and peri-urban. There is a pressing need for improved monitoring of schistosomiasis in urban communities and consideration of treatment strategies.

Author summary

Schistosomiasis is an infectious parasitic disease and one of the 20 diseases considered by the World Health Organization as a neglected tropical disease. It is typically associated with poor environmental and sanitary conditions, primarily affecting rural communities. However, with the currently observed rapid urbanization and predicted two-thirds of the world population living in urban areas by 2050, concerns are raised about a spread of schistosomiasis to urban and peri-urban areas. At the same time, there seems to be little knowledge of the extent of schistososomiasis in urban areas. In light of the efforts to control morbidity and ultimately achieve elimination of schistosomiasis as well as reaching Sustainable Development Goals 3 “achieve health for all” and 11 “make human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable,” this systematic literature review was conducted to address the existing research and mapping gaps and to contribute to the understanding of the burden of schistosomiasis in areas that have not, as yet, been the focus of control efforts and mass drug administration programs. The review suggests that rapid and unorganized urbanization and resulting poor living conditions in urban and peri-urban areas may lead to new disease foci and thereby increase the overall disease burden. Research and policy implications are discussed.

Literature review Urban Schistosomiasis