Posted by: Matthew | 2019/05/01


Can Bilharzia leave side effects?

Dear Reader, I am now 23 years of age, living in Australia. I grew up in a very rural part of South Africa, where schistosomiasis (commonly known as bilharzia) was rife. I was quite an active kid and loved swimming in rivers and dams; consequently, I managed to contract schistosomiasis. Twice. From memory, I was 8 the first time and 9 the second time. The first time was only noticed when I started urinating blood. I was promptly taken to my local GP, where I was prescribed medication and cured a few days (weeks?) later. Or, so we thought... The following year, my appendix burst. I was rushed to hospital and had an emergency appendectomy. A post-operative examination of my appendix revealed that I still had schistosomiasis. I was prescribed medication once again, and this time cured for good. To be honest, I haven't really thought about my experience again until very recently. I was extremely distressed to learn (according to Dr. Google) that, apparently, having had schistosomiasis places one at a higher than usual risk of being infertile, as well as developing cancer as an adult. The former is distressing, as I would like to have children of my own one day, and the latter quite concerning given three of my father's siblings carry the BRCA1 gene. So, my question: would my two bouts of schistosomiasis as child of 8 and 9 mean I am almost definitely infertile? And, am I now at a much higher risk of developing cancer as an adult? Any insight, opinions and advice would be gratefully received. Thanks in anticipation, M

Expert's Reply


Cancer expert
- 2019/05/02

Dear Matthew, it is possible that severe schistosomiasis may cause intense granulomatous epididymitis which can cause inhibition of spermatogenesis and thereby causing male infertility. It is suggested that you make an appointment with an urologist or fertility specialist who will be able to test whether you have normal sperm that will enable you to procreate.

Schistosomiasis is not known to be associated with any malignancy other than bladder cancer – although there seems to be limited and controversial evidence suggesting that it may also be a possible risk factor for liver cancer. A visit to your treating physician should be considered. (MCH).

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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