Schistosomiasis infection in pre-school aged children in Uganda: A qualitative descriptive study to identify routes of exposure

Simon Peter Sebina Kibira, John C. Ssempebwa, Ronald Ssenyonga, Scott Radloff, Fredrick Edward Makumbi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prevalence of schistosomiasis is high among children under five years in Uganda. Schistosomiasis control efforts over time have included periodic mass treatments in endemic areas for adults and school going children aged 5 years and above. This study explores behaviour practices of children age 2-4 years that increase the risk of schistosomiasis infection in this age group. Methods: A qualitative descriptive study was conducted using in-depth interviews with 30 caregivers of children aged 2-4 years who tested positive for schistosomiasis in a national prevalence survey in 2017. Observations were done at water bodies where young children go with caretakers or other older children. The study was conducted in three Ugandan sub-regions of West Nile and East-central, and South-western with high, and low prevalence of schistosomiasis, respectively. Data were thematically analysed. Anonymised supporting photos from observations are also presented. Results: Knowledge about schistosomiasis transmission was poor among caregivers, who concurrently had mixed right and wrong information. Reported avenues for contracting schistosomiasis included both correct: contact activities with infested water, and incorrect modes: contact with dirty water, sharing bathrooms, witchcraft, polluted air and contaminated food. The children in this study could have contracted schistosomiasis through the contact with infested water during activities such as bathing and playing, while their caregivers washed clothes, collected snail shells for poultry feeds, fetched water at the water bodies. These activities were reported by caregivers and observed in all study areas. Evidence of open defecation and urination in and near water bodies by adults and children was also observed. Conclusions: Pre-school children age 2-4 years are at a high risk of exposure to schistosomiasis while caretakers conduct activities in infested water bodies. There is need for prevention interventions to target children in their early stages of life to control schistosomiasis in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 14 2019


  • Bilharzia
  • Children
  • Neglected tropical diseases
  • Qualitative
  • Sanitation
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Uganda
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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