Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Schistosomiasis

Over 235 million people in Africa suffer from the parasitic tropical disease schistosomiasis, with more than 200,000 dying each year as a result. Schistosomiasis is transmitted by flatworms. People contract the worm larvae while swimming or washing laundry, which then infest their internal organs. The infection rate is especially high among children, and the consequences are serious. Schistosomiasis stunts growth, causes learning disabilities, and leads to anemia.
In partnership with other organizations, we intend to combat the disease until it's been eliminated. To this end, we donate praziquantel tablets, support awareness campaigns, and engage in research.
Jean-Baptiste’s dream
Jean-Baptiste’s dream
Jean-Baptiste loves soccer and dreams of being a teacher someday. Yet this 14-year-old boy, who lives with his mother and five siblings in Ambatobe, a remote, rural village in Madagascar, is currently unable to attend school. He suffers from abdominal pain, has bloody urine, has lost considerable weight, and is always tired. Jean-Baptiste has a parasitic disease known as schistosomiasis.
His village has no access to clean drinking water. Their only source of water is a small lake located a few kilometers away, where the children bathe and play every afternoon. The region is hot and dusty, which makes the lake's waters a welcome change. But the water is infested with the schistosome larvae, the cause of schistosomiasis.
A team from the Madagascar Ministry of Public Health and Education pays a visit to the village and finds hundreds of schistosome eggs in Jean-Baptiste's bloody urine. Tests show the same for many other children as well. To restore their strength and allow them to return to school, the children are treated free of charge, bringing them one step closer to realizing their dreams.
 
Project 1: Donation program − Hand in hand with WHO
Donation program − Hand in hand with WHO
Since 2007, we've been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against schistosomiasis in Africa. The most effective treatment to date for this parasitic disease is Cesol® 600, a tablet that contains the well-tolerated active ingredient known as praziquantel. This API is on the WHO list of essential drugs.
Through our medicine donation program, we've been partnering with WHO since 2007 to supply these tablets on a regular basis. In 2015, more than 100 million tablets were distributed across 23 African countries. To date, over 74 million patients have been treated in total, primarily school children. We produce the tablets at our plant in Mexico and also cover the transport and logistical costs involved in getting the tablets to Africa, while WHO manages, monitors, and documents their distribution at the local level.
We will continue our fight against schistosomiasis as long as it takes to eliminate the disease in Africa. We intend to accelerate the process and are increasing the number of tablets donated annually to up to 250 million tablets.
To review the progress of our efforts, we get together with WHO at least twice a year. At this meeting of the steering committee, we plot the course for our Praziquantel Donation Program and decide where to take it next.
 
Number of praziquantel tablets donated to WHO

Raise awareness, educate, prevent
Raise awareness, educate, prevent
Awareness and prevention are two crucial weapons in the fight against schistosomiasis. We are therefore supporting an educational program at African schools that aims to educate children on the causes of the disease and help arm them against it. To this end, we are supplying schools and teachers with easy-to-understand materials for their lessons, namely booklets (in English, French, Portuguese, Swahili, Arabic) along with matching posters. In total, we have distributed 1 million booklets and 75,000 posters, primarily in the countries of Malawi and Senegal.
In addition to this, we've also helped the Uraha Foundation set up a local radio station in northern Malawi. Since 2014, Radio Dinosaur has been broadcasting in the local languages of Kyangonde and Chitumbuka. The station informs its audience about politics, local happenings and culture, as well as environmental and health issues. Among other initiatives, we are funding the production of shows that help educate people on schistosomiasis.
 
Research to help small children
Research to help small children
In their current form, praziquantel tablets are only suitable for adults and children older than six. There is no treatment available for small children with schistosomiasis. But we intend to change this. We have therefore been working, within the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, on the development of a pediatric formulation of praziquantel. The initial studies conducted in 2015 on a suitable treatment have yielded positive results. We hope to have a market-ready drug formulation by 2019. In June 2015, the Consortium was once more awarded a prestigious research grant from the Japanese Global Health Innovation Technology Fund.
 
Working hand-in-hand
Working hand-in-hand
The battle against this insidious parasitic disease is challenging. For instance − despite the fact that we've increased our praziquantel donation massively since 2012, the tablets do not reach all the children who need them. This is why, at the end of 2014, we launched the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA). Founding members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, the United States Agency for International Development, and World Vision International. Hand in hand, we are working to address any remaining gaps to meeting the elimination target. In 2015, the alliance rolled out Something in the Water, a digital campaign that aims to increase awareness of the condition.
 

DISCLAIMER

Publication of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
There are two different, unaffiliated companies that use the name MERCK. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates this website, uses the firm name “Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany,” in the United States and Canada, and also uses “EMD Serono” in healthcare, “MilliporeSigma” in life science and “EMD Performance Materials.” The other company is Merck & Co., which uses the trademark MERCK only in the United States and Canada. Merck & Co. is not affiliated with or related to Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which owns the MERCK trademark in all other countries of the world.  To reflect such fact and to avoid any confusion, certain logos, terms and business descriptions of the publications on this website have been substituted or modified, such as by referring to “Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany” instead of “Merck” standing alone. Publications on this webpage, therefore, slightly deviate from the otherwise identical versions accessible outside the United States and Canada.
 

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