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Using Prawns to Prevent Snail Fever, Swollen Bellies

Using Prawns to Prevent Snail Fever, Swollen Bellies

March 10, 2014

Medical Research, Natural Sciences

Green Prophet — After finishing his undergraduate degree at BGU, Amit Savaia volunteered in Africa for three months. With four other BGU students, he helped build a computer platform to connect African farmers with their neighbors.

What tugged at his heartstrings, though, was the problem of schistosomiasis, the “snail fever” caused by ingesting parasites. This disease causes the characteristic swollen bellies in African children.

While mortality rates are low from snail fever, it is the second most socioeconomically devastating disease in Africa, after malaria. The chronic illness can damage internal organs and can lead to slowed growth and cognitive development. In adults, it carries an increased risk of bladder cancer.

BGU researcher Amit Savaia (left) is working to make a difference in Africa.

BGU researcher Amit Savaia (left) is working to make a difference in Africa.

Savaia vowed to help Africa beat this problem. Today, earning a master’s degree at BGU, he is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded organization Project Crevette to develop a natural way to stop schistosomiasis in Senegal — using cultured prawns based on the University’s research.

Savaia’s academic supervisor, Prof. Amir Sagi, has done decades of research on prawns and crustaceans. Savaia also works with Prof. Dina Zilberg, Ben-Gurion’s expert on aquatic animal health. – See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/treating-snail-fever-and-swollen-bellies-with-prawns/#sthash.m0L38MeA.BrD8yrFX.dpuf
Savaia’s academic supervisor, Prof. Amir Sagi, has done decades of research on prawns and crustaceans. Savaia also works with Prof. Dina Zilberg, Ben-Gurion’s expert on aquatic animal health. – See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/03/treating-snail-fever-and-swollen-bellies-with-prawns/#sthash.m0L38MeA.BrD8yrFX.dpuf

Savaia’s academic supervisor, Prof. Amir Sagi, has done decades of research on prawns and crustaceans. Savaia also works with Dr. Dina Zilberg, BGU’s expert on aquatic animal health.

He is concentrating his efforts on the local watering hole in the Lampsar Village in Senegal. This watering hole is a breeding ground for snail fever, which has no sustainable treatment or cure.

“It’s next to impossible to get the villagers to stop swimming and urinating in the water, which keeps the parasitic cycle going,” says Savaia.

The issue with parasite-carrying snails in the watering hole began when the river that supplies its water was dammed. The dam blocked the entry of female prawns, which are natural predators of snails, and prevented them from laying eggs in the water.

The parasite-carrying snail population in the watering hole skyrocketed, and the snail-fever parasite grew with it. Working on the project since 2012, Savaia proposes using advanced breeding methods to reintroduce prawns to the river, which would kill the parasites causing the disease.

Read more on the Green Prophet website >>