Evolutionary concepts in predicting and evaluating the impact of mass chemotherapy schistosomiasis control programmes on parasites and their hosts

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SummarySchistosomiasis is a parasitic disease of significant medical and veterinary importance in many regions of the world. Recent shifts in global health policy have led towards the implementation of mass chemotherapeutic control programmes at the national scale in previously ‘neglected’ countries such as those within sub-Saharan Africa. Evolutionary theory has an important role to play in the design, application and interpretation of such programmes. Whilst celebrating the rapid success achieved to date by such programmes, in terms of reduced infection prevalence, intensity and associated human morbidity, evolutionary change in response to drug selection pressure may be predicted under certain circumstances, particularly in terms of the development of potential drug resistance, evolutionary changes in parasite virulence, transmission and host use, and/or competitive interactions with co-infecting pathogens. Theoretical and empirical data gained to date serve to highlight the importance of careful monitoring and evaluation of parasites and their hosts whenever and wherever chemotherapy is applied and where parasite transmission remains.

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