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From Left: Ms Tsakani Furumele, Ms Takalani
Nemungadi, Professor Phiri, Professor Ayola
Adegnika, Professor Joyce Tsoka-Gwegweni
(Academic Leader: Public Health) and Dr
Mwele-Ntuli Malecela.

The concern of parasitical diseases and pregnant women who are affected by them was a focus at the Parasites in Pregnancy Symposium, hosted by the Discipline of Public Health and held at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.

The symposium sought to bring attention to the prevalence of various parasitic diseases affecting countries all over the African continent, but more importantly it shed light on how little information and awareness of parasitic diseases exists in South Africa.

Dr. Mwele-Ntuli Malecela from Tanzania expressed that ‘the poorest of the poor are affected by these parasitic diseases. The government and policy makers are not getting the issues of how these diseases affect people, therefore making this an area of advocacy.’

Malecela explained that placental malaria, where parasites hide, accumulate and thrive in the placenta of pregnant women makes women highly susceptible since there is no pre-existing immunity to these parasites. ‘A lot of the time, there are people living in areas with little to no access to clean water. In certain areas of Tanzania, there are zones with 4 diseases or more that people can contract. If there is better sanitation, the prevalence of these diseases can be decreased, along with a sanitation intervention to control helminths.’

While there are Insecticide treated nets distributed around numerous African countries to combat malaria, the disease accounts for 3 – 8% of mortality. In certain regions of Africa there are numerous neglected Tropical diseases (NTD’s) like Ascariasis, Trichuriasis, Hookworm, Schistosomiasis, Lymphatic filariasis, Onchocerciasis and Trachoma.