The diecious trematode helminths of the genus Schistosoma
Katayama fever or disease, Bilharzia, Schistosome Blood Fluke.
Schistosomiasis has been affecting human health for at least 4,000 years; characteristic symptoms are described in early Egyptian papyri and analysis reveals immunological cues as to its presence in ancient mummies 1 .
The etiology of schistosomiasis in humans was first discovered in 1851 by the German physician Theodor Bilharz. Working out of Cairo, Egypt he first identified adult male and female Schistosoma haematobium during postmortem exams 7 .
S. japonicum was discovered 1904, though the clinical symptoms had been a described syndrome for more than half a century 7 .
S. mansoni was described in 1907, and named in the honor of Sir Patrick Manson, the first scientist to speculate that the difference in egg morphology and manner of excretion (terminal versus lateral spine; fecal versus urinary) of African schistosomes was due to the existence of two separate species (S. haematobium and S. mansoni)7 .
There was some confusion as to how exactly the schistosomes entered their human hosts, and the exact dynamics of schistosome life cycles, but all disagreement was solved in 1913 when Keinosuka Miyairi and Masatsuga Suzuki clearly elucidated transmission and life cycle details for S. japonicum 7 .
In China in the 1950’s, Mao recognized the problem of Schistosomiasis and decided to work towards eradication. He raised public awareness, and funded many public health projects. Mao’s efforts in the 1950’s helped curb schistosomiasis infection, but, today, urban China is under the assumption that Schistosomiasis is something of the past, when it is still very much a problem in rural China today 6 .
1 Mahmoud, Adel A. F., ed. Schistosomiasis. Tropical Medicine Science and Practice Vol. 3. Singapore: Imperial College Press, 2001.
6 Spear, Robert. Telephone interview. 18 May 2006.
7 “Schistosomiasis.” 1998 Cambridge University Schistosomiasis Research Group. 19 May 2006.