MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Is Bilharzia found in the Western Cape

Area: Earth Sciences
Posted By: David Kopaska-Merkel, Staff Hydrogeology Division, Geological Survey of Alabama
Date: Wed Apr 23 15:20:29 1997
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 861447884.Es
Dear Michael:  I have been asked to answer your question about bilharzia.  
bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, is caused by several species of blood fluke.  
These are worms of the family Schistosomatidae, of the Class Trematoda, commonly
known as flukes.  The species of schistosome causing bilharzia in Africa is
Schistosoma mansoni, and is also found in South America. As an aside, this divided 
distribution of members of this species is one of the kinds of evidence 
that were used to show that the Atlantic Ocean was once closed.  Bilharzia is commonly
transmitted when human feces from infected persons are used as fertilizer.  This
allows the eggs of the flukes to enter water where they hatch and parasitize
certain kinds of snails.  The flukes reproduce in the snails, producing a
form that can parasitize people through skin contact in water.  Thus, if the fluke
is present in the Western Cape region and human feces are used for fertilizer
then the disease is almost certainly present.
	I think the quickest way to find out for certain would be to contact South
Africa's public health office in Cape Town.  You might also ask a local 
doctor who treats infectious diseases.  Finally, if you search the internet
for schistosomiasis you will find hundreds of entries.  This might be a slow
way to find the information you want, but if you cannot find a doctor or
public health official to help you, then you ought to be able to get the
information you need off the Internet.
	I got the basic information I quoted above about trematodes from two 
Keeton, W. T., 1972, Biological Science, 2nd Edition, W. W. Norton Co., New York.
Barnes, R. D., 1974, Invertebrate Zoology, 3rd Edition, W. B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia.
Any good biology book will include this kind of information about flukes.
	I hope this has been of help.
		David C. Kopaska-Merkel

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