Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Hammering Snails
29 August 2016

Hammering Snails

Slithering around bodies of freshwater in the developing world, Biomphalaria glabrata snails (pictured) often carry a parasite that causes schistosomiasis – a debilitating disease that leads to anaemia, fatigue, and even stunted growth. Although drugs can combat the disease, many patients risk reinfection when returning to contaminated waters to drink and bathe. As a solution, thoughts have returned to an old idea: meddling in what’s going on in the water. Introducing killer prawns to contaminated rivers alters the food chain – if the snails are eaten, the parasites have no hosts. Recent research finds this prawny intervention to be more effective than drugs at controlling the disease, yet current government policies still prioritise drug use. A campaign is underway to combine human treatment with long-term snail control to squash schistosomiasis, which currently affects up to 250 million people worldwide.

Written by John Ankers

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