Current concepts of snail control.
Schistosomiasis control was impossible without effective tools. Synthetic molluscicides developed in the 1950s spearheaded community level control. Snail eradication proved impossible but repeated mollusciciding to manage natural snail populations could eliminate transmission. Escalating costs, logistical complexity, its labour-intensive nature and possible environmental effects caused some concern. The arrival of safe, effective, single-dose drugs in the 1970s offered an apparently better alternative but experience revealed the need for repeated treatments to minimise reinfection in programmes relying on drugs alone. Combining treatment with mollusciciding was more successful, but broke down if mollusciciding was withdrawn to save money. The provision of sanitation and safe water to prevent transmission is too expensive in poor rural areas where schistosomiasis is endemic; rendering ineffective public health education linked to primary health care. In the tropics, moreover, children (the key group in maintaining transmission) will always play in water. Large scale destruction of natural snail habitats remains impossibly expensive (although proper design could render many new man-made habitats unsuitable for snails). Neither biological control agents nor plant molluscicides have proved satisfactory alternatives to synthetic molluscicides. Biologists can develop effective strategies for using synthetic molluscicides in different epidemiological situations if only, like drugs, their price can be reduced.
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