Distribution of <em>Biomphalaria</em> Snails in Associated Vegetations and Schistosome Infection Prevalence Along the Shores of Lake Victoria in Mbita, Kenya: A Cross-Sectional Study

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Sabiano O Odero
Lilian Ogonda
David Sang
Elly O Munde
Clement Shilulil
Patrick Chweya


Background: Schistosomiasis due to Schistosoma mansoni remains a major public health problem and cause of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa despite the implementation of control programmes. More than 6 million Kenyans are at risk of infection. Regarding control measures, Biomphalaria snail species, which are the obligatory intermediate hosts for transmission of S. mansoni, have been neglected. Mbita subcounty in Homa Bay County, western Kenya, along Lake Victoria basin, has a high prevalence of S. mansoni infection despite mass drug administration. This study aimed to determine the abundance of Biomphalaria, with their associated vegetation and schistosome infection rates, along Mbita shoreline.

Methods: Sixteen purposively selected sites along the Mbita shoreline were sampled for Biomphalaria snails using a 30-minute scooping technique. Global positioning system technology was used to map selected sites. The associated vegetation at sampling sites were collected and identified. Schistosome infection status among the snails was determined via the detection of cercaria shedding.

Results: A total of 3,135 Biomphalaria sudanica snails were collected. The number of snails collected differed significantly between the 16 sites (F=11.735; degrees of freedom [df]=15.836; P<.001). Significant mean differences (MD) were also observed in terms of the number of snails collected per vegetation type (F=7.899; df=5.846; P<.001). The mean number of snails collected from Cyprus gracilis was significantly higher than that from Enydra fluactuants (MD= 2.03; P<.001), Eichhornia crassipes (MD=4.15; P<.010), and E. fluactuants mixed with E. crassipes (MD=2.516; P<.010). A total of 21 (0.67%) snails shed human cercariae, while 27 (0.86%) snails shed nonhuman cercariae, despite 14 sites having human faeces contamination.

Conclusion: Although the schistosome infection prevalence among the snails was low, these sites may still be important exposure sites. C. gracilis is the main vegetation type associated with a high abundance of Biomphalaria snails. Molecular techniques are necessary for verification of schistosome positivity among the snails.

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