Sustainable Elimination of Schistosomiasis in Ethiopia—A Five-Year Follow-Up Study

Lotte Ben Gal, Michal Bruck, Robyn Tal, Sarit Baum, Jemal Mahdi Ali, Lemlem Legesse Weldegabriel, Galia Sabar, Rachel Golan, Zvi Bentwich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In 2009, Mekele, the capital of the Tigray Region in Ethiopia, presented a mean prevalence of 44.7% of schistosomiasis (S. mansoni) in school children. Termed a public health problem, NALA, an international public health non-governmental organization, and their partners implemented a novel model of intervention, which aimed to compliment mass drug administration (MDA) campaigns with behavioral change (BC) and improved sanitation to achieve sustained elimination of schistosomiasis. The four-year intervention (2009–2012) covered 38 primary schools. The objective of this study was to examine factors associated with control or resurgence of the disease, and the association between the behavioral change program and disease prevalence, ten years after initiation. Eleven primary schools were selected for this follow-up study. All students provided a stool sample and filled in a knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) questionnaire. In seven out of eleven schools (63.6%) the prevalence of schistosomiasis was maintained below 2% ten years after the initiation of the intervention. In four schools, prevalence returned to pre-intervention levels, defining them as persistent hot spots (PHS). Students from PHS schools scored lower on KAP questionnaires compared to students from responder schools; 3.9 ± 0.9 vs. 4.2 ± 0.9 (p-value < 0.001) for practice questions and 4.4 ± 1.4 vs. 4.6 ± 1.5 (p-value = 0.03) for attitude questions. The prevalence of schistosomiasis correlated positively with age, (p-value = 0.049), sex (relative risk = 1.7, p-value < 0.001), and location. Semi-urban locations (n = 382) had higher disease prevalence than urban locations (n = 242), (22.7% vs. 5.5%, p-value < 0.001). Students residing in semi-urban areas and close to a river (<500 m) were at higher risk of contracting schistosomiasis than those living in urban areas far from the river (RR = 5.95, p-value < 0.001). Finally, a correlation between prevalence and proximity of schools to rivers was found (semi-urban areas; RR = −0.91, p-value = 0.001 vs. urban areas; RR = −0.51, p-value = 0.001). Soil-transmitted-helminths prevalence in 2009 was 8.1% and declined during the intervention years to 0.5%. Prevalence in 2018 was found to be stable at 0.8%. These results demonstrate the long-term success of NALAs’ comprehensive model of intervention for elimination of schistosomiasis in school children, combining behavioral change and improved sanitation with MDA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number218
JournalTropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Volume7
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Keywords

  • behavioral change
  • control
  • endemic region
  • Ethiopia
  • NALA
  • S. mansoni
  • schistosomiasis

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