THOUSANDS of pre-school children in Africa could benefit from access to treatment for an endemic disease, after tests showed infants to be at high risk of infection.
Researchers from Edinburgh University carried out studies in Zimbabwe and their results were combined with work by other teams in Mali, Sudan, Egypt, Niger and Uganda.
They tested hundreds of children aged between one and five in countries in sub-Saharan Africa where snail fever – also known as bilharzia or schistosomiasis – is endemic.
Currently, infants are not regularly tested for infection as they are perceived to be at low risk of exposure to the water-borne disease and not to suffer severely from its ill-effects.
But scientists have shown that infection rates are high among pre-school children. The study found that a snail fever drug, known as praziquantel, which is regularly given to older children and adults, can safely cure the infection in infants.