This study was designed to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for schistosomiasis among a group of preschool children in Malawi. Schistosomiasis burden among preschoolers in Malawi is not well documented in the literature.
This study used field research (in the form of a snail survey), laboratory work (urinalysis and microscopy for parasite identification), and questionnaireguided interviews to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for urinary schistosomiasis among children, aged between 6 and 60 months, in Malengachanzi, Nkhotakota District, Malawi.
Urinary schistosomiasis prevalence among preschool children was 13%. Of the factors evaluated, only age (P = 0.027) was statistically significantly associated with urinary schistosomiasis risk. Four-year-old preschool children were five times more likely to contract urinary schistosomiasis than two-year-old children (odds ratio [OR] = 5.255; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.014-27.237; P = 0.048). Increased contact with infested water among older children likely explains much of their increased risk. Infestation was evidenced by the presence of infected
snails in the water contact points surveyed. Multiple regression analysis showed that visiting water contact sites daily (OR = 0.898, 95% CI = 0.185-4.350, P = 0.894), bathing in these sites (OR = 9.462, 95% CI = 0.036-0.00, P = 0.430) and lack of knowledge, among caregivers, regarding the causes of urinary schistosomiasis (OR = 0.235, 95% CI = 0.005-1.102, P = 0.066) posed statistically insignificant risk increases for preschoolers contracting urinary schistosomiasis.
Urinary schistosomiasis was prevalent among preschool children in Malengachanzi, Nkhotakota District. Contact with infested water puts these children and the general population at risk of infection and reinfection. Inclusion of preschool children in treatment programmes should be considered imperative, along with safe treatment guidelines. To prevent infection, the population in the area should be provided with health education and safe alternative water sources.