Treating Schistosomiasis May Help Control HIV Transmissions

New research suggests that treating a common parasitic infection may reduce HIV transmission rates.

New research suggests that treating a common parasitic infection may reduce HIV transmission rates.

Both HIV and schistosomiasis—an infection caused by drinking water containing schistosome parasites—are common in Africa. The majority of the world’s 35 million HIV-positive people and 200 million people with schistosomiasis live on the continent, according to researchers from Emory University.

Given their prevalence and the similarity of their geographic footprints, lead researcher Kristin Wall, PhD, and colleagues wanted to explore what, if any, relationship there was between the 2 infections.

The team tested sera from 2145 patients in Zambia who had been enrolled in a study of HIV-discordant heterosexual couples in the late 1990s through 2012. Samples were tested for schistosomiasis-related antibodies. Those data were then cross-referenced with other health data, such as HIV status and death.

A majority—59%—of the patients tested had schistosomiasis-specific antibodies. They found that when the HIV-positive partner had schistosomiasis antibodies (regardless of gender), their partner had a greater chance of becoming infected with HIV (adjusted hazard ratio 1.8 for women; 1.4 for men). There were also other correlations, wrote Wall, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory.

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