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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2009;3(1):e361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000361. Epub 2009 Jan 20.

Prevalence distribution and risk factors for Schistosoma hematobium infection among school children in Blantyre, Malawi.

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Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.



Schistosomiasis is a public health problem in Malawi but estimates of its prevalence vary widely. There is need for updated information on the extent of disease burden, communities at risk and factors associated with infection at the district and sub-district level to facilitate effective prioritization and monitoring while ensuring ownership and sustainability of prevention and control programs at the local level.


We conducted a cross-sectional study between May and July 2006 among pupils in Blantyre district from a stratified random sample of 23 primary schools. Information on socio-demographic factors, schistosomiasis symptoms and other risk factors was obtained using questionnaires. Urine samples were examined for Schistosoma hematobium ova using filtration method. Bivariate and multiple logistic regressions with robust estimates were used to assess risk factors for S. hematobium. One thousand one hundred and fifty (1,150) pupils were enrolled with a mean age of 10.5 years and 51.5% of them were boys. One thousand one hundred and thirty-nine (1,139) pupils submitted urine and S. hematobium ova were detected in 10.4% (95%CI 5.43-15.41%). Male gender (OR 1.81; 95% CI 1.06-3.07), child's knowledge of an existing open water source (includes river, dam, springs, lake, etc.) in the area (OR 1.90; 95% CI 1.14-3.46), history of urinary schistosomiasis in the past month (OR 3.65; 95% CI 2.22-6.00), distance of less than 1 km from school to the nearest open water source (OR 5.39; 95% CI 1.67-17.42) and age 8-10 years (OR 4.55; 95% CI 1.53-13.50) compared to those 14 years or older were associated with infection. Using urine microscopy as a gold standard, the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported hematuria was 68.3% and 73.6%, respectively. However, the positive predictive value was low at 23.9% and was associated with age.


The study provides an important update on the status of infection in this part of sub-Saharan Africa and exemplifies the success of deliberate national efforts to advance active participation in schistosomiasis prevention and control activities at the sub-national or sub-district levels. In this population, children who attend schools close to open water sources are at an increased risk of infection and self-reported hematuria may still be useful in older children in this region.

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