Predictors for participation in mass-treatment and female genital schistosomiasis re-investigation, and the effect of praziquantel treatment in South African adolescents

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2024 Mar 27;18(3):e0011798. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0011798. eCollection 2024 Mar.


Objective: Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) causes intravaginal lesions and symptoms that could be mistaken for sexually transmitted diseases or cancer. In adults, FGS lesions [grainy sandy patches (GSP), homogenous yellow patches (HYP), abnormal blood vessels and rubbery papules] are refractory to treatment. The effect of treatment has never been explored in young women; it is unclear if gynaecological investigation will be possible in this young age group (16-23 years). We explored the predictors for accepting anti-schistosomal treatment and/or gynaecological reinvestigation in young women, and the effects of anti-schistosomal mass-treatment (praziquantel) on the clinical manifestations of FGS at an adolescent age.

Method: The study was conducted between 2011 and 2013 in randomly selected, rural, high schools in Ilembe, uThungulu and Ugu Districts, KwaZulu-Natal Province, East Coast of South Africa. At baseline, gynaecological investigations were conducted in female learners in grades 8 to 12, aged 16-23 years (n = 2293). Mass-treatment was offered in the low-transmission season between May and August (a few in September, n = 48), in accordance with WHO recommendations. Reinvestigation was offered after a median of 9 months (range 5-14 months). Univariate, multivariable and logistic regression analysis were used to measure the association between variables.

Results: Prevalence: Of the 2293 learners who came for baseline gynaecological investigations, 1045 (46%) had FGS lesions and/or schistosomiasis, 209/1045 (20%) had GSP; 208/1045 (20%) HYP; 772/1045 (74%) had abnormal blood vessels; and 404/1045 (39%) were urine positive. Overall participation rate for mass treatment and gynaecological investigation: Only 26% (587/2293) learners participated in the mass treatment and 17% (401/2293) participated in the follow up gynaecological reinvestigations. Loss to follow-up among those with FGS: More than 70% of learners with FGS lesions at baseline were lost to follow-up for gynaecological investigations: 156/209 (75%) GSP; 154/208 (74%) HYP; 539/722 (75%) abnormal blood vessels; 238/404 (59%) urine positive. The grade 12 pupil had left school and did not participate in the reinvestigations (n = 375; 16%). Follow-up findings: Amongst those with lesions who came for both treatment and reinvestigation, 12/19 still had GSP, 8/28 had HYP, and 54/90 had abnormal blood vessels. Only 3/55 remained positive for S. haematobium ova. Factors influencing treatment and follow-up gynaecological investigation: HIV, current water contact, water contact as a toddler and urinary schistosomiasis influenced participation in mass treatment. Grainy sandy patches, abnormal blood vessels, HYP, previous pregnancy, current water contact, water contact as a toddler and father present in the family were strongly associated with coming back for follow-up gynaecological investigation. Challenges in sample size for follow-up analysis of the effect of treatment: The low mass treatment uptake and loss to follow up among those who had baseline FGS reduced the chances of a larger sample size at follow up investigation. However, multivariable analysis showed that treatment had effect on the abnormal blood vessels (adjusted odds ratio = 2.1, 95% CI 1.1-3.9 and p = 0.018).

Conclusion: Compliance to treatment and gynaecological reinvestigation was very low. There is need to embark on large scale awareness and advocacy in schools and communities before implementing mass-treatment and investigation studies. Despite challenges in sample size and significant loss to follow-up, limiting the ability to fully understand the treatment's effect, multivariable analysis demonstrated a significant treatment effect on abnormal blood vessels.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genital Diseases, Female*
  • Genitalia, Female
  • Humans
  • Praziquantel / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Schistosoma haematobium
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia* / diagnosis
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia* / drug therapy
  • Schistosomiasis haematobia* / epidemiology
  • South Africa
  • Water


  • Praziquantel
  • Water