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Case Western Reserve professor helps control infectious diseases with models and math
Date:12/19/2008

million people. The most common way of getting schistosomiasis in developing countries is by contact with infected snails in lakes, ponds and other water bodies - which act as a natural reservoir of the disease.

A drug called praziquantel can treat human infection, so the World Health Organization (WHO) advocates control of the disease by periodical administration of the drug.

However, any interruption in the treatment program will gradually bring it back to precontrol levels, which puts a substantial burden on many developing nations (with limited health resources). To complicate matters the disease is now spreading to new habitats through irrigation projects, or other changes in land-water use. Tourism, refugee movement and migration in general are bringing the disease into new areas in Africa and into urban environments like in northeast Brazil. It also reemerges in some places considered clear of parasites in earlier interventions (Southern China).

"While schistosomiasis is unlikely to spread to any developed country because of sanitation and clean water, or urban environments that limit the spread of mosquito habitats, the story in a place like China is different, as they use human waste for fertilizer and recently saw reemergence," Gurarie said.

A challenge facing the WHO is how to eradicate the disease, or bring it to a "manageable level," despite limited financial resources. In other words, can an "optimal" (in terms of cost and efficacy) control program based on drug treatment and snail eradication be developed?

The best answer to these questions cannot be found through testing, medical research or past experience alone. But modeling can provide useful tools and insights, Gurarie says.

"Realistically, you can't put the entire complex system into your model. But one tries to include enough 'realism' along with mathematical/computational efficiency, then plug it into the computer to run simulations and
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Contact: Jason A. Tirotta
jason.tirotta@case.edu
216-368-6890
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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