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Bilharzia, HIV infections rise in Nyanza

By | Jan 28th 2011 | 1 min read
By | January 28th 2011

By KEPHER Otieno

HIV and schistosomiasis co-infection is on the rise around Lake Victoria, raising fresh fears of a rebound of Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome (IRIS) among people living with HIV.

On Thursday, medical researchers disclosed that the prevalence of schistosomiasis or bilharzia around the lake was nearly 100 per cent, with a third of the cases affecting HIV positive people.

Consequently, the researchers have now launched HIV-bilharzia co-infection studies to come up with alternative remedies to combat the twin infections.

Led by Dr Diana Karanja, the team of researcher is investigating the prevalence of schistosomiasis associated IRIS in communities living around Lake Victoria, starting with Rarieda District.

The scientists drawn from Global Health Research and Kenya medical research institute say they have already established that IRIS affects only those HIV positive people whose immune systems are heavily damaged by the virus.

"When such patients start antiretroviral therapy and their immune cells begin to regenerate, the immune system unexpectedly produces an exaggerated response that unmasks or worsens the symptoms of the co-infection," explained Karanja.

Five years

She said the studies will take five years to complete. Other districts also targeted are Kisumu West and East, Nyakach, Rachuonyo, Bondo, Migori, Homabay, as they dissect the impact of research on bieannual basis or midterm.

Bilharzia parasites penetrate the skin of persons who are wading, swimming, bathing, or washing in contaminated water. It is considered by the WHO to be second most important parasitic disease, next only to malaria, with hundreds of millions infected worldwide.

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