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BACKGROUND: Schistosomiasis remains a global-health problem with over 90% of its burden concentrated in Africa. Field studies reflect the complex ways in which socio-cultural and socio-economic variables, affect the distribution of Schistosoma infections across different populations. This review set out to systematically investigate and quantify the differences in Schistosoma infection burdens between males and females in Africa for two of the most prevalent Schistosoma species-Schistosoma mansoni and Schistosoma haematobium. METHODOLOGY: We searched (from inception to 11th March 2020) Embase, MEDLINE, PubMed, and Web of Science for relevant studies on schistosomiasis. We included studies that report S. mansoni and/or S. haematobium prevalence and/or intensity data distributed between males and females. We conducted meta-analyses on the male to female (M:F) prevalence of infection ratios. Subgroup analyses were performed according to study baseline prevalence, sample size and the lower and upper age limit of study participants. We also present a descriptive analysis of differential risk and intensity of infection across males and females. Evidence for differences in the prevalence of schistosomiasis infection between males and females is presented, stratified by Schistosoma species. RESULT: We identified 128 relevant studies, with over 200,000 participants across 23 countries. Of all the reported differences in the prevalence of infection between males and females, only 41% and 34% were statistically significant for S. mansoni and S. haematobium, respectively. Similar proportions of studies (27% and 34% for for S. haematobium and S. mansoni, respectively) of the reported differences in intensity of infection between males and females were statistically significant. The meta-analyses summarized a higher prevalence of infection in males; pooled random-effects weighted M:F prevalence of infection ratios were 1.20 (95% CI 1.11-1.29) for S. haematobium and 1.15 (95% CI 1.08-1.22) for S. mansoni. However, females are underrespresented in some of the studies. Additionally, there was significant heterogeneity across studies (Higgins I2 statistic (p-values < 0.001, I2values>95%)). Results of the subgroup analysis showed that the baseline prevalence influenced the M:F prevalence ratios for S. haematobium and S. mansoni, with higher M:F prevalence of infection ratios in settings with a lower baseline prevalence of infection. Across the studies, we identified four major risk factors associated with infection rates: occupational and recreational water contact, knowledge, socio-economic factors and demographic factors. The effect of these risk factors on the burden of infection in males and females varied across studies. CONCLUSIONS: We find evidence of differences in prevalence of infection between males and females which may reflect differences in gender norms and water contact activities, suggesting that policy changes at the regional level may help ameliorate gender-related disparities in schistosomiasis infection burden. Collecting, robustly analysing, and reporting, sex-disaggregated epidemiological data, is currently lacking, but would be highly informative for planning effective treatment programmes and establishing those most at risk of schistosomiasis infections.

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Journal article


PLoS Negl Trop Dis

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