One hundred years of neglect in paediatric schistosomiasis
Early in the history of schistosomiasis research, children under 5 years of age were known to be infected. Although this problem was recognized over 100 years ago, insufficient action has been taken to address this issue. Under current policy, such infected children only receive their first antiparasitic treatment (praziquantel – PZQ) upon entry into primary school as current mass drug administration programmes typically target school-aged children. For many infected children, they will wait up to 6 years before receiving their first medication and significant schistosomiasis-related morbidity may have already established. This inequity would not be accepted for other diseases. To unveil some of the reasons behind this neglect, it is paramount to understand the intricate historical relationship between schistosomiasis and British Imperial medicine, to underline its lasting influence on today's public health priorities. This review presents a perspective on the historical neglect of paediatric schistosomiasis, focusing on important gaps that persist from the early days after discovery of this parasite. Looking to end this inequity, we address several issues that need to be overcome to move forward towards the lasting success of schistosomiasis control and elimination efforts.