The Immunology Department of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) gathered international researchers, national scientists, and local executives in the first International Schistosomiasis Research Forum for Local Stakeholders last March 12 to 13 at the Crimson Hotel, Alabang.
The research forum was designed to keep abreast the local health and veterinary executives on the latest schistosomiasis research of relevance to their communities.
According to Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, Philippines is one of the countries with the highest burden of schistosomiasis infection.
Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by parasitic worms that live in the veins of the large intestines and release eggs in the bloodstream. The eggs either cross to the intestinal lumen and get released in the stool, or are trapped in the liver causing fibrosis.
“We have 1611 barangays in 190 municipalities in 28 provinces and 14 cities being endemic for Schistosomiasis japonicum. This puts schistosoma as a leading parasitic infection of public health importance in the country today,” highlighted Usec. Bayugo.
Although eliminated in Japan and Taiwan, Schistosomiasis remains as one of the challenges in the country that requires an innovative and multidisciplinary approach to be addressed.
“I think we should continue contributing to the science of schistosomiasis, and to develop a test which is sensitive enough to be used in the field for surveillance and monitoring,” said Tropical Medicine Research Center Project Program Director Dr. Remigio Olveda as he shared his insights on the possible elimination strategies for the disease.
The event also served as an avenue for productive dialogue between the experts and implementing officers. Suggestions such as frequent treatment through a continued mass drug administration, vaccine development, and strengthening compliance in prevention and control measures were raised.
More importantly, the need for collaborative effort and alignment among different agencies was emphasized in the forum.
“There is significant value in reviewing our current implementation of schistosomiasis control. RITM is one with all of you in controlling and eliminating the disease. Let us work together to achieve this goal,” said RITM Laboratory and Research Division Chief Dr. Amado Tandoc III as he closed the event.
by Allenor Enciso, Communication and Engagement Office