Over 200 million people in Africa suffer from the widespread tropical worm disease schistosomiasis. Every year, more than 200,000 die as a result of this insidious illness, which is caused by flatworms and spread through stagnant water. People become infected by the worm larvae while doing activities such as swimming, fishing, playing, or washing their clothes. The larvae penetrate human skin, enter the blood vessels and attack internal organs such as the liver, colon, spleen, or bladder. The infection rate is especially high among children, and the symptoms that result are particularly serious; schistosomiasis stunts growth, causes learning disabilities, and leads to anemia.
Since 2007, Merck has been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against schistosomiasis in Africa. Since the start of the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program, Merck has donated over 160 million tablets. To date, more than 38 million patients in total have thus been treated, consisting primarily of school children. In 2013, around 50 million tablets were provided to the African countries of Angola, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Tanzania.
In addition to this, we are engaged in research and education projects that are helping to contain this insidious tropical illness. Our efforts to fight schistosomiasis are in line with the United Nations Millennium
Development Goals, and are also part of the initiative
to fight neglected tropical diseases that was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in early 2012.