Over time, the infection can lead to a variety of health complications, such as bladder cancer, kidney and liver damage, and blood infections. No vaccine is available to prevent the illness, and medications to treat it generally are not effective at breaking the disease cycle, especially in poor, developing areas of the world.
After infecting humans, the adult worms lay eggs, which are released into water sources through human waste, perpetuating the cycle of contamination. Tiny worms hatch from the eggs in the water, and use snails as an intermediate host until they're large enough to float freely in the water.
The researchers traveled to the Poyang Lake region during the last two years to collect field data that they fed into a geographic information system documenting water levels, vegetation characteristics and air temperatures that, when combined, identify areas favorable for the host snails to thrive.
For future measurements, all Poyang Lake water level data will come from the European Space Agency's ENVISAT satellite, which measures the water level of the lake every 35 days. The radar readings have been calibrated to compare to baseline levels recorded in the field data.
The satellite work is led by C.K. Shum, a professor of earth sciences at Ohio State who specializes in the use of radar altimetry to measure water levels by satellite. The measurements are made by bouncing radio signals off of surfaces and measuring how long the signals take to return.
Others on the research team led by Daniel Janies, associate professor of biomedical informatics, will conduct DNA analyses of the snail species involved to better understand their behavior, their origin and their preferred habitat.
Trying to kill the snails with molluscicides has been considered, but isn't practical in a body of water the size of Poyang Lake, Ibara
|Contact: Motomu Ibaraki|
Ohio State University