We use necessary cookies that allow our site to work. We also set optional cookies that help us improve our website. For more information about the types of cookies we use, visit our Cookies policy.

Cookie settings

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis)


What is Bilharzia (schistosomiasis)?

Bilharzia (also known as schistosomiasis or snail fever) affects people in 51 endemic countries across Asia, Africa and parts of South America.

Bilharzia is an illness that develops when people come into contact with water contaminated by certain snails that carry disease-causing parasites. These parasites can penetrate through a person’s skin and move through the body.

Infection primarily affects the urinary or intestinal system, causing chronic ill health and, in some cases, death. Lack of access to safe water and hygiene facilities, and water-based activities (such as swimming and fishing) make school-age children the most vulnerable, with infection responsible for malnutrition, absenteeism and possible impaired intellectual development.

Children and adults suffering from persistent and severe bilharzia infections are also likely to have chronic and irreversible diseases later in life, such as scarring (fibrosis) of the liver, bladder cancer or kidney failure.

In women, bilharzia can lead to female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) which can cause complications in pregnancy, infertility, and triple the risk of contracting HIV.

WHO road map target:

Elimination as a public health problem by 2030

Key stats

  • 251 million

    people require treatment for bilharzia

  • 95% of school-aged children

    that require preventive treatment live in Africa

  • 51 countries

    require preventive treatment for bilharzia

Network partners

Global Schistosomiasis Alliance

The Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA) is an all-inclusive coalition to mobilise the growing momentum to control and eliminate schistosomiasis.

Read more

Unlimit Health

Unlimit Health (previously known as SCI Foundation) is an international organisation working to end parasitic disease.

Read more