Background: Schistosomiasis is one of the major parasitic diseases in the world in terms of people infected and those at risk. Infection occurs through contact with water contaminated with larval forms of the parasite, which are released by freshwater snails and then penetrate the skin of people. Schistosomiasis infection and human water contact are thus essentially linked, and more knowledge about their relationship will help us to develop appropriate control measures. So far, only few studies have related water contact patterns to infection levels.Methods: We have conducted detailed direct water contact observations in a village in Northern Senegal during the first years of a massive Schistosoma mansoni outbreak to determine the role of human water contact in the extent of the epidemic.We quantified water contact activities in terms of frequency and duration, and described how these vary with age and sex. Moreover, we assessed the relationship between water contact- and infection intensity patterns to further elucidate the contribution of exposure to the transmission of schistosomiasis.Results: This resulted in over 120,000 recorded water contacts for 1651 subjects over 175 observation days. Bathing was the main activity, followed by household activities. Frequency and duration of water contact depended on age and sex rather than season. Water contacts peaked in adolescents, women spent almost twice as much time in the water as men, and water contacts were more intense in the afternoon than in the morning, with sex-specific intensity peaks. The average number of water contacts per person per day in this population was 0.42; the average time spent in the water per person per day was 4.3 minutes.Conclusions: The observed patterns of water contact behavior are not unusual and have been described before in various other settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, water contact levels were not exceptionally high and thus cannot explain the extremely high S. mansoni infection intensities as observed in Northern Senegal. Comparison with fecal egg counts in the respective age and sex groups further revealed that water contact levels did not unambiguously correspond with infection levels, indicating that factors other than exposure also play a role in determining intensity of infection.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2334-11-198, hdl.handle.net/1765/31388
Citation
Sow, S., de Vlas, S.J., Stelma, F.F., Vereecken, K., Gryseels, B., & Polman, K.. (2011). The contribution of water contact behavior to the high Schistosoma mansoni Infection rates observed in the Senegal River Basin. BMC Infectious Diseases, 11. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-198