Reaching the World Health Organization elimination targets for schistosomiasis: the importance of a One Health perspective
The past three years has seen the launch of a new World Health Organization (WHO) neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) roadmap, together with revised control and elimination guidelines. Across all, there is now a clear emphasis on the need to incorporate a One Health approach, recognizing the critical links between human and animal health and the environment. Schistosomiasis, caused by Schistosoma spp. trematodes, is a NTD of global medical and veterinary importance, with over 220 million people and untold millions of livestock currently infected. Its burden remains extremely high in certain regions, particularly within sub-Saharan Africa, despite over two decades of mass preventive chemotherapy (mass drug administration), predominantly to school-aged children. In Africa, in contrast to Asia, any zoonotic component of schistosomiasis transmission and its implications for disease control has, until recently, been largely ignored. Here, we review recent epidemiological, clinical, molecular, and modelling work across both Asia and Africa. We outline the evolutionary history and transmission dynamics of Schistosoma species, and emphasize the emerging risk raised by both wildlife reservoirs and viable hybridization between human and animal schistosomes. To achieve the 2030 WHO roadmap elimination targets, a truly multi-disciplinary One Health perspective must be implemented.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Challenges and opportunities in the fight against neglected tropical diseases: a decade from the London Declaration on NTDs’.