Impact of the crayfish Procambarus clarkii on Schistosoma haematobium transmission in Kenya

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1999 Nov;61(5):751-9. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.1999.61.751.


The Louisiana red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, which was introduced into east Africa in the 1950s or 1960s, has since widely dispersed. Previous work by our group has shown that P. clarkii can reduce populations of the molluscan intermediate hosts of human schistosomes through predatory and competitive interactions. Here, we investigate whether crayfish can reduce populations of Bulinus africanus and consequently, Schistosoma haematobium prevalence in school children. Children from 6 primary schools in the Machakos and Kitui Districts of Kenya were selected for study. Schools were divided into 3 experimental-control pairs. At experimental schools, crayfish were introduced into nearby aquatic habitats harboring Bulinus africanus snails and serving as S. haematobium transmission sites. Snail habitats near control schools did not receive crayfish. Six months after crayfish introduction, all infected children were treated with praziquantel. Children were then monitored quarterly for 2 years, at which time infection and reinfection rates were compared statistically between the paired schools. In one such pair, crayfish failed to establish, resulting in neither snail control nor a reduction in transmission. At the second pair of schools, the numbers of snails were decreased by the presence of crayfish, but a clear difference in infection rates in children could not be detected, primarily because drought conditions kept overall transmission rates low. At the third school pair, crayfish established well in experimental habitats, snail numbers decreased precipitously, and children at the experimental school were significantly less likely to acquire S. haematobium infections than children at the control school. Our results indicate that under certain environmental circumstances, P. clarkii exerts a significant impact on the transmission of human schistosomiasis in Kenya. Important questions remain regarding the impact of P. clarkii on Kenyan freshwater ecosystems, not the least of which is its potential to significantly influence the epidemiology of schistosomiasis in east Africa.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics / therapeutic use
  • Astacoidea / physiology*
  • Child
  • Disease Vectors
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Parasite Egg Count
  • Pest Control, Biological*
  • Praziquantel / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Schistosoma haematobium / growth & development*
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia / epidemiology
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia / prevention & control*
  • Snails / growth & development*
  • Snails / parasitology
  • Urine / parasitology


  • Anthelmintics
  • Praziquantel