JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
REVIEW
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Examining the relationship between urogenital schistosomiasis and HIV infection.

BACKGROUND: Urogenital schistosomiasis, caused by infection with Schistosoma haematobium, is widespread and causes substantial morbidity on the African continent. The infection has been suggested as an unrecognized risk factor for incident HIV infection. Current guidelines recommend preventive chemotherapy, using praziquantel as a public health tool, to avert morbidity due to schistosomiasis. In individuals of reproductive age, urogenital schistosomiasis remains highly prevalent and, likely, underdiagnosed. This comprehensive literature review was undertaken to examine the evidence for a cause-effect relationship between urogenital schistosomiasis and HIV/AIDS. The review aims to support discussions of urogenital schistosomiasis as a neglected yet urgent public health challenge.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We conducted a systematic search of the literature including online databases, clinical guidelines, and current medical textbooks. We describe plausible local and systemic mechanisms by which Schistosoma haematobium infection could increase the risk of HIV acquisition in both women and men. We also detail the effects of S. haematobium infection on the progression and transmissibility of HIV in co-infected individuals. We briefly summarize available evidence on the immunomodulatory effects of chronic schistosomiasis and the implications this might have for populations at high risk of both schistosomiasis and HIV.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Studies support the hypothesis that urogenital schistosomiasis in women and men constitutes a significant risk factor for HIV acquisition due both to local genital tract and global immunological effects. In those who become HIV-infected, schistosomal co-infection may accelerate HIV disease progression and facilitate viral transmission to sexual partners. Establishing effective prevention strategies using praziquantel, including better definition of treatment age, duration, and frequency of treatment for urogenital schistosomiasis, is an important public health priority. Our findings call attention to this pressing yet neglected public health issue and the potential added benefit of scaling up coverage of schistosomal treatment for populations in whom HIV infection is prevalent.

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