A population-based approach was used to investigate morbidity from Schistosoma mansoni in a rural community in eastern Puerto Rico that was representative of remaining endemic foci on the island. In 1974 the prevalence of infection in 855 of 1,056 inhabitants was 32.7% and the geometric mean egg output was 17.6 eggs per gram. A standardized medical history was obtained, and physical and laboratory examinations were performed on 737 (70%) of the community residents. Quantitative S. mansoni egg counts were performed on 1 gram of feces with a modified Ritchie formol-ether concentration technique; other intestinal parasites were recorded on a semi-quantitative basis. Interviews and physical examinations were conducted “blind” to minimize observer bias, and statistical analysis was done on data from 149 infected subjects and 149 noninfected controls matched by age and sex. For subjects under 20 years of age the frequency of hookworm infection and trichuriasis and absolute eosinophilia was significantly higher in the infected group, but no difference was found in the frequency of signs and symptoms of schistosomiasis. For the subjects 20 years and over, the symptom “blood in the stool” was reported more frequently in the infected group, but hematocrit level did not differ between infected and noninfected controls. Although palpable livers were noted more frequently in infected (8) than in noninfected (1) subjects 20 years and over, further evaluation of these subjects cast doubt upon a causal role for S. mansoni. These data indicate that morbidity from S. mansoni infection in the community is low, a finding consistent with the apparent decline in S. mansoni morbidity in Puerto Rico during recent decades and the relatively low intensity of infection in this community. Nevertheless, because of the sporadic occurrence of S. mansoni-induced disease on the island, and because heavily infected subjects are clearly at greater risk of disease, we are recommending treatment for community residents with high egg output.
Present address: Department of Tropical Medicine, Tulane Medical Center, 1430 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112.
Presently with Internists of Hyannis, Hyannis, Massachusetts.