Bilharzia, schistosomiasis, snail fever, is a disease caused by parasitic worms of the Schistosoma type. It may infect the urinary tract or the intestines. Signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, or blood in the urine. In those who have been infected for a long time, liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer may occur. Schistosomiasis affects almost 210 million people worldwide, and an estimated 200,000 people die from it a year,
Praziquantel is the only treatment available to-day. Trials with ACTs gave disappointing or erratic results with many side effects. Even Praziquantel is showing signs of resistence since several years (Ismail, M.; et al.,.. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 1996, 55, 214–218. 10. Melman, S.D.; et al., PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 2009, 3, e504. Fallon, P.G. et al.,. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 1995, 53, 61–62). Bigpharma has no other molecule in their drawer, nor in development.
A medical team in RD Congo has run several clinical trials against Bilharzia with Artemisia annua and Artemisia afra (personal communication Dr M Idumbo, Dr J Munyangi et al.,). A first trial involved 20 people infected by this disease. They were treated during 10 days. The results obtained are based on analysis of the stools on day 0 and day 11. No eggs could be detected after the treatment with Artemisia in any patient. In a second run 23 infected people were involved. In 21 of these eggs had disappeared on day 11. Several of these people were co-infected with Plasmodium falciparum. As described in a previous blog on www.malariaworld.org average trophozoite load has decreased by >95% and gametocyte load by >80%. Further tests are planned comparing different plants and drugs.
Similar trials are planned by Dr Philippe Andrieux in Mali with Artemisia maritima and a team of local doctors.
We knew since several years that a German sister, Elke Stien, is curing Bilharzia in Dagana, Senegal with Artemisia annua. The treatment given is similar to that efficient against Malaria. In case of obvious Bilharzia the patient drinks 3 cups of tea during 7 days. In Egypt Artemisia inculta is used against Bilharzia. Infected mice treated with ethanol extract of the plant in a dose of 800 mg/kg intragastrically showed a 75% reduction in juvenile worms and 50% in total adult worms. (Neimat Moussa Amer, TBRI, Cairo, Egypt).
It is indeed no surprise that Artemisia has anthelmintic properties : it is called wormwood. Why and how Artemisia cures the helminth Bilharzia is of course an open question. As Schistosoma has to rely on detoxification of heme it is likely that the same mechanisms and constituants of Artemisia which inhibit the crystallization of hemozoin will be active against this parasite. Arginine which produces NO is certainly a key factor for the killing effect (U Hahn et al., J Parasitol 2001, 87, 778-789). In murine schistosomiasis arginine is converted into proline (M Dunn et al, Gastroenterology, 1978, 75, 1010-1015). The depression of arginin is related to the severity of exposure to cercariae and to the duration of the parasitism (A Senft , Comparat Biochem Physiol. 1967, 21, 299-306). Endothelial cells are able to kill larval schistosomes via an arginine-dependant mechanism. Essential oils are efficient against adult worms of Schistosoma mansoni (S Godinho et al., The Scientific World Journal 2014 , Article ID 460342). Essential oils and gum of myrrh also have well documented anti-schistosomial properties (Z Sheir et al., Am J Trop MedHyg2001, 65, 700-704)Several papers describe the efficiency of saponins (Maghraby et al., J American Sc. 2010, 6-8, 368) ; E Garcia et al, FAO, Science Diliman1980, vol 1). Polysaccharides also have an in vivo immunomodulatory effect inhibiting the infection by Schistosoma mansoni (P Cheng et al., Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2008, 227, 291-298).
Whatever research will find on the mechanism leading to the efficiency of Artemisia against Bilharzia, this novel treatment discovered in vivo by medical doctors in the RD Congo would deliver millions of Africans from suffering.