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Defining elimination as a public health problem for schistosomiasis control programmes: beyond prevalence of heavy-intensity infections

23 June 2023

WHO’s 2021–30 road map for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) outlines disease-specific and cross-cutting targets for the control, elimination, and eradication of NTDs in affected countries. For schistosomiasis, the criterion for elimination as a public health problem (EPHP) is defined as less than 1% prevalence of heavy-intensity infections (ie, ≥50 Schistosoma haematobium eggs per 10 mL of urine or ≥400 Schistosoma mansoni eggs per g of stool). However, we believe the evidence supporting this definition of EPHP is inadequate and the shifting distribution of schistosomiasis morbidity towards more subtle, rather than severe, morbidity in the face of large-scale control programmes requires guidelines to be adapted. In this Viewpoint, we outline the need for more accurate measures to develop a robust evidence-based monitoring and evaluation framework for schistosomiasis. Such a framework is crucial for achieving the goal of widespread EPHP of schistosomiasis and to meet the WHO road map targets. We encourage use of overall prevalence of schistosome infection (instead of the prevalence of heavy-intensity infections), development of species-dependent and age-dependent morbidity markers, and construction of a standardised monitoring and evaluation protocol.