Age-specific decrease in seroprevalence of schistosomiasis in Puerto Rico.

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  • 1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, San Juan 00936-5067, USA.

In our previous work, we reported the first systematic, island-wide, serologic survey for schistosomiasis in Puerto Rico in 40 years. In that study, approximately 3,000 serum samples from the 76 municipalities comprising the island of Puerto Rico were tested for the detection of antibodies to S. mansoni microsomal antigens by the Falcon assay screening test-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (FAST-ELISA) and those positive were confirmed by an enzyme-linked immunoelectrotransfer blot (EITB). The highest EITB positivity was found in 17 municipalities, which comprised 48% of all seropositive samples. An additional finding was that 10% of the 215 EITB-positive samples were from individuals 25 years or younger and were for the most part of residents from the high seroprevalence areas. Thus, for this study we focused on 766 individuals 25 years of age or younger (45.5% males and 54.4% females), two-thirds of which were from 10 municipalities with the highest EITB seropositivity, and one-third from the 10 municipalities with the lowest EITB seropositivity found in our previous study. Of all samples, the results showed an overall FAST-ELISA positivity of 11.6%, with males similar to females (12.6 versus 10.7%, respectively). Confirmation by EITB was only 1.8%, with a males three-fold higher than females (3% versus 0.7%). When seropositivity was measured by age in five-year increments, a clear age-specific decrease in seropositivity was observed. Thus, by FAST-ELISA, 16.7% of the 21-25-year-old age group was positive, decreasing to 14.6%, 9.9%, 7.9%, and 9.3% in the 16-20-, 11-15-, 6-10-, and 1-5-year-old age groups, respectively. Confirmatory EITB showed even more impressive results: 4.7%, 2.6%, 1.2%, 0.7%, and 0% in the same age brackets. With regard to the high prevalence municipalities, only four of 10 (11 of 228 = 4.8%) had confirmatory EITB-positive samples and most were from municipalities of the Rio Grande de Loiza River basin and tributaries. The male to female positivity ratio was 4:1. Of the low prevalence municipalities, only single positive cases (by EITB) were found in three disperse municipalities. These results support the concept that there has been little transmission of S. mansoni in Puerto Rico during the first half of the 1990s and confirms anecdotal comments of local physicians who have seen virtually no new infections during the past three years. This makes the documentation of eradication of schistosomiasis from Puerto Rico feasible, a goal that should be set as being before the 100th anniversary of its discovery on the island by Isaac Gonzalez-Martinez in 1904.