Making sure certain rivers are fully stocked with prawns could prove to be an important contribution to fighting schistosomiasis.
The parasitic worm disease is endemic in many parts of the tropics and sub-tropics. Africa is a hotspot.
But it has been shown that prawns will avidly eat the water snails that host the parasite, breaking the cycle of infection that includes people.
The impact was most eloquently demonstrated on the Senegal River.
There, the Diama Dam was built close to the estuary in 1986, blocking the ability of prawns to migrate up and down the water course, decimating their presence.
When scientists restocked the crustaceans upstream of the barrier in a controlled experiment, they saw a dramatic fall in schistosomiasis re-infection rates among the local population.
But the ecological consequences of dam construction are often complex and hard to unwrap, and the team could not therefore know for sure how applicable this approach might be to other areas.
So they did an analysis – to look at multiple dam systems worldwide to see how these mapped across decades-long records of schistosomiasis and the traditional habitat ranges of the large migratory prawn, Macrobrachium.
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