The long road to schistosomiasis elimination in Zanzibar: A systematic review covering 100 years of research, interventions and control milestones
Zanzibar is among the few places in sub-Saharan Africa where interruption of Schistosoma transmission seems an achievable goal. Our systematic review identifies and discusses milestones in schistosomiasis research, control and elimination efforts in Zanzibar over the past 100 years.
The search in online databases, libraries, and the World Health Organization Archives revealed 153 records published between May 1928 and August 2022. The content of records was summarised to highlight the pivotal work leading towards urogenital schistosomiasis elimination and remaining research gaps.
The greatest achievement following 100 years of schistosomiasis interventions and research is undoubtedly the improved health of Zanzibaris, exemplified by the reduction in Schistosoma haematobium prevalence from>50% historically down to<5% in 2020, and the absence of severe morbidities. Experiences from Zanzibar have contributed to global schistosomiasis guidelines, whilst also revealing challenges that impede progression towards elimination. Challenges include: transmission heterogeneity requiring micro-targeting of interventions, post-treatment recrudescence of infections in transmission hotspots, biological complexity of intermediate host snails, emergence of livestock Schistosoma species complicating surveillance whilst creating the risk for interspecies hybridisation, insufficient diagnostics performance for light intensity infections and female genital schistosomiasis, and a lack of acceptable sanitary alternatives to freshwater bodies.
Our analysis of the past revealed that much can be achieved in the future with practical implementation of integrated interventions, alongside operational research. With continuing national and international commitments, interruption of S. haematobium transmission across both islands is within reach by 2030, signposting the future demise of urogenital schistosomiasis across other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.