Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2018 Aug 9;4(1):13. doi: 10.1038/s41572-018-0013-8.


Schistosomiasis (bilharzia) is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic flatworms (blood flukes) of the genus Schistosoma, with considerable morbidity in parts of the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia and, particularly, in sub-Saharan Africa. Infective larvae grow in an intermediate host (fresh-water snails) before penetrating the skin of the definitive human host. Mature adult worms reside in the mesenteric (Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma japonicum) or pelvic (Schistosoma haematobium) veins, where female worms lay eggs, which are secreted in stool or urine. Eggs trapped in the surrounding tissues and organs, such as the liver and bladder, cause inflammatory immune responses (including granulomas) that result in intestinal, hepato-splenic or urogenital disease. Diagnosis requires the detection of eggs in excreta or worm antigens in the serum, and sensitive, rapid, point-of-care tests for populations living in endemic areas are needed. The anti-schistosomal drug praziquantel is safe and efficacious against adult worms of all the six Schistosoma spp. infecting humans; however, it does not prevent reinfection and the emergence of drug resistance is a concern. Schistosomiasis elimination will require a multifaceted approach, including: treatment; snail control; information, education and communication; improved water, sanitation and hygiene; accurate diagnostics; and surveillance-response systems that are readily tailored to social-ecological settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Humans
  • Praziquantel / therapeutic use
  • Schistosoma haematobium / microbiology
  • Schistosoma haematobium / pathogenicity
  • Schistosoma japonicum / microbiology
  • Schistosoma japonicum / pathogenicity
  • Schistosoma mansoni / microbiology
  • Schistosoma mansoni / pathogenicity
  • Schistosomiasis / complications*
  • Schistosomiasis / diagnosis*
  • Schistosomiasis / physiopathology
  • Snails / microbiology
  • Snails / pathogenicity
  • Ultrasonography / methods
  • Zoonoses / etiology
  • Zoonoses / physiopathology


  • Anthelmintics
  • Praziquantel