The World Health Organization estimates that schistosomiasis afflicts approximately 250 million people in 78 countries, with more than 500 million at risk of infection annually. In many countries, schistosomiasis ranks near the top in causes of morbidity associated with infectious disease.
In addition to the substantial health burdens associated with the disease, especially in children and young adults, schistosomiasis places a severe strain on primary health care facilities and limits the overall economic development of the region. Clearly, further research efforts are essential for reducing the impact of this helminth infection as a public health menace.
For more than 40 years, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported an SR3 facility through which investigators can obtain schistosome life stages for research or teaching purposes, free of charge. The SR3 is housed at the Biomedical Research Institute under an NIH-NIAID contract entitled “Maintenance, Development and Production of Schistosomiasis Parasites, Reagents, and Assays”. Through this contract, the three major schistosome species affecting humans (Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and S. japonicum) can be obtained either in their specific snail host or in infected mammals. In addition, the SR3 is responsible for developing molecular reagents for schistosomiasis research that are made available to the research community. This service offers nucleic acids and other reagents derived from snails and parasites.
The SR3 is is funded by the Animal Models of Infectious Disease contract mechanism, which also funds the malaria (MR4) and filariasis (FR3) repositories. This supply contract has been a major factor in the development of schistosomiasis research programs in numerous institutions. It has made the schistosome species available to biochemists, immunologists and others who cannot reasonably maintain these life cycles because of a lack of space, time, funding or requisite expertise. In addition to fostering the development of schistosomiasis research, this resource serves as a backup facility for those investigators who have had problems with their own established life cycles.
Personnel associated with this project are also available to provide training and technical assistance to other laboratories on snail cultivation, parasite collection and host infection. The contract also allows us to provide training courses.