Improving public health control of schistosomiasis with a modified WHO strategy: a model-based comparison study

01 Oct 2019
Emily Y Li, BS Prof David Gurarie, PhD Nathan C Lo, MD Xuewei Zhu, BS Prof Charles H King, MD


Schistosomiasis is endemic in many low-income and middle-income countries. To reduce infection-associated morbidity, WHO has published guidelines for control of schistosomiasis based on targeted mass drug administration (MDA) and, in 2017, on supplemental snail control. We compared the current WHO guideline-based strategies from 2012 to an alternative, adaptive decision making framework for control in heterogeneous environments, to estimate their predicted relative effectiveness and time to achievement of defined public health goals.


In this model-based comparison study, we adapted an established transmission model for Schistosoma infection that couples local human and snail populations and includes aspects of snail ecology and parasite biology. We calibrated the model using data from high-risk, moderate-risk, and lower-risk rural villages in Kenya, and then simulated control via MDA. We compared 2012 WHO guidelines with a modified adaptive strategy that tested a lower-prevalence threshold for MDA and shorter intervals between implementation, evaluation, and modification. We also explored the addition of snail control to this modified strategy. The primary outcomes were the proportion of simulations that achieved the WHO targets in children aged 5–14 years of less than 5% (2020 morbidity control goal) and less than 1% (2025 elimination as a public health problem goal) heavy infection and the mean duration of treatment required to achieve these goals.


In high-risk communities (80% baseline prevalence), current WHO strategies for MDA were not predicted to achieve morbidity control (<5% prevalence of heavy infections) in 80% of simulations over a 10-year period, whereas the modified adaptive strategy was predicted to achieve this goal in over 50% of simulations within 5 years. In low-risk and moderate-risk communities, current WHO guidelines from 2012 were predicted to achieve morbidity control in most simulations (96% in low-risk and 41% for moderate-risk), although the proposed adaptive strategy reached this goal in a shorter period (mean reduction of 5 years). The model predicted that the addition of snail control to the proposed adaptive strategy would achieve morbidity control in all high-risk communities, and 54% of communities could reach the goal for elimination as a public health problem (<1% heavy infection) within 7 years.


The modified adaptive decision making framework is predicted to be more effective than the current WHO guidelines in reaching 2025 public health goals, especially for high-prevalence regions. Modifications in current guidelines could reduce the time and resources needed for countries who are currently working on achieving public health goals against schistosomiasis.
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