Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health, Atlanta, Georgia, Puerto Rico
A systematic, island-wide survey for schistosomiasis in Puerto Rico has not been conducted for more than 40 years. In 1974, a thorough survey of Boqueron de Las Piedras, a small community, showed a prevalence of 40%. No additional information on prevalence in Puerto Rico has been obtained during the ensuing 21 years. Concern for the public health of residents and visitors prompted the formation of the Bilharzia Commission in 1994 and the systematic serosurvey reported herein. Two thousand nine hundred fifty-five plasma samples from healthy donors were obtained randomly from the Red Cross in March and April 1995. Sex, resident municipalities, and age of the donors were recorded. The donors were from all but three of 79 municipalities in Puerto Rico. No sample was available from the three out island municipalities of Mona, Vieques, and Culebra. Male donors (n = 2,027) outnumbered females (n = 928) by more than 2:1, ages ranged from nine to 76 years with most (85.3%) between 19 and 51 years of age. All samples were tested with the Falcon assay screening test:enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (FAST®:ELISA) with microsomal antigens of Schistosoma mansoni. All FAST:ELISA + samples were confirmed by enzyme-linked immunoelectrotransfer blot (EITB). Our data showed that 15.4% were FAST:ELISA+, and 10.6% were confirmed by EITB; 13.5% of the males and 4.1% of the females were EITB+. If we exclude those municipalities with fewer than five samples, the prevalence of EITB+ ranged from 0% to 38.5%, with the highest seroprevalence rates (21.1–38.5%) concentrated in 17 municipalities, which accounted for 48% of all seropositive samples. These 17 municipalities, however, contain only 18% of the total population of Puerto Rico. Two areas of high seroprevalence rates center around Jayuya (38.5%) and Naguabo (36.4%). The previously surveyed area of Boqueron is located in Las Piedras (35.3%), adjacent to Naguabo. In addition, we found 10% (21) of our total 215 donors less than 25 years of age to be EITB+ and all but two are residents of the high prevalence districts. These data strongly support the contention that schistosomiasis has been transmitted in a focal fashion during the past approximately 20 years.