Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
A tablet against a tropical worm

A tablet against a tropical worm

We are partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the worm disease schistosomiasis...more

We are partnering with the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa. In addition to this, we are engaged in research and education projects that are helping to contain this insidious tropical illness.

The danger lurking in water

The danger lurking in water

A new campaign of the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance provides information on how dangerous the tropical...more

A new campaign of the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance provides information on how dangerous the tropical disease schistosomiasis is, how easily it can be transmitted in water, and what the treatment possibilities are.

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Fighting schistosomiasis

Over 232 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, our company has been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against schistosomiasis in Africa. Since the start of our Praziquantel Donation Program, we have donated over 290 million tablets. To date, more than 64 million patients have been treated, consisting primarily of school children. In 2014, we produced around 75 million tablets, more than 72 million of which were supplied to 20 African countries by the year's end, a collaborative effort with the World Health Organization (Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, the Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Marocco, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe).
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.

In 2007, we made a commitment to donate to WHO 200 million tablets of Cesol® 600, which contain the active ingredient praziquantel. By 2017, this was intended to have treated around 27 million children for schistosomiasis in the most severely affected countries in Africa. In 2012, we announced that we will continue our efforts to fight schistosomiasis until the disease has been eliminated in Africa. To this end, we are increasing the number of praziquantel tablets donated in the medium term, raising the total to up to 250 million tablets annually, expected to treat 100 million children suffering from schistosomiasis.

Praziquantel is well tolerated and the most effective treatment to date for schistosomiasis, which is why WHO has included it on its list of essential medicines. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany developed praziquantel in the 1970s as part of a research collaboration, and the tablets are produced at our plant in Mexico. We also cover the transport and logistics costs involved in getting the tablets to Africa, while WHO manages, monitors, and documents their distribution at the local level.

WHO supplies the country-specific data on morbidity rates and treatment frequency in the countries in which our Praziquantel Donation Program has been rolled out.The data for each country can be found in the WHO PCT databank.

A steering committee consisting of representatives from both WHO and our company convenes at least twice a year in order to review the progress of our Praziquantel Donation Program and decide on its future course.

Our company is supporting an awareness program at schools in Africa; using an easy-to-understand brochure (English, French, Portuguese) as well as posters, the program explains the causes of schistosomiasis and teaches children ways to prevent the disease. In 2011, a pilot project was launched at schools in Senegal and Malawi; through 1,100 brochures and 130 posters, the project reached around 1,100 children. In 2013, the program was launched in Senegal with 750,000 brochures and in Malawi with 250,000 brochures.

In addition, we have supported the Uraha Foundation Germany to set up a local radio station in the North of Malawi. Radio Dinosaur has been broadcasting since the end of 2014; it provides information on politics, environmental issues, history, culture, and health, doing so in the local languages of KyaNgonde and ChiTumbuka. Among other activities, we are funding the production of broadcasts that educate people about schistosomiasis.

Within the scope of a public-private partnership (PPP), our company is researching a formulation of Praziquantel for young children. Praziquantel tablets in their current form are suitable for adults and children over the age of six; for children younger than six, it is currently not possible to properly treat the disease. The members of this international PPP, which was founded in July 2012, include Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, TI Pharma, Astellas Pharma Inc., and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (“Swiss TPH”) in Basel, Fiocruz and Simcyp.

On top of this, our researchers are also working on a film coating to make Praziquantel tablets easier to swallow as well as more resistant to long transport times.

Yet the fight against the insidious worm disease still poses a multitude of challenges. Although the company has massively increased its donation of praziquantel tablets since 2012, not all of the tablets actually reach the children in need. To this end, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany launched the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance (GSA) at the end of 2014. The founding members include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, the United States Agency for International Development, and World Vision International. The aim is to address remaining gaps in the fight against schistosomiasis and overcome the challenges on the road to meeting the elimination target.


Publication of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
In the USA and Canada the subsidiaries of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operate as EMD Serono in Healthcare, MilliporeSigma in Life Science and EMD Performance Materials. To reflect such fact and to avoid any misconception of the reader of the publication certain logos, terms and business descriptions of the publication have been substituted or additional descriptions have been added. Publications on this homepage, therefore, slightly deviate from the otherwise identical version of the publications provided outside the United States and Canada.
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