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Open Access Research article

Female genital schistosomiasis as an evidence of a neglected cause for reproductive ill-health: a retrospective histopathological study from Tanzania

Britta Swai1, Gabriele Poggensee2*, Sabina Mtweve3 and Ingela Krantz45

  • * Corresponding author: Gabriele Poggensee poggenseeG@rki.de

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi, Tanzania

2 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Robert Koch Institute, Seestraße 10, 13353 Berlin, Germany

3 Community Health Department, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi, Tanzania

4 Skaraborg Institute for Research and Development, Skövde, Sweden

5 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology, Umeå University, Sweden

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:134  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-134

Published: 23 August 2006

Abstract

Background

Schistosomiasis affects the reproductive health of women. Described sequelae are ectopic pregnancy, infertility, abortion, and cervical lesions and symptoms mimicking cervical cancer and STIs. There are indications that cervical schistosomiasis lesions could become co-factors for viral infection such as HIV and HPV.

Methods

In a retrospective descriptive histopathological study clinical specimens sent between 1999 and 2005 to the pathology department of a consultant hospital in Tanzania were reviewed to analyse the occurrence and features of schistosomiasis in female genital organs.

Results

During the study period, schistosomiasis was histopathologically diagnosed in 423 specimens from different organs (0.7% of all specimens examined in the study period), out of those 40% were specimens from female and male organs. The specimens were sent from 24 hospitals in 13 regions of mainland Tanzania. Female genital schistosomiasis was diagnosed in 125 specimens from 111 patients. The main symptoms reported were bleeding disorders (48%), ulcer (17%), tumor (20%), lower abdominal pain (11%) and infertility (7%). The majority of cases with genital schistosomiasis were diagnosed in cervical tissue (71 cases). The confirmation of cervical cancer was specifically requested for 53 women, but the diagnosis could only be verified for 13 patients (25%), in 40 cases only severe cervical schistosomiasis was diagnosed. Vulval/labial schistosomiasis was seen in specimens from young women. Infertility was reported in four patients with schistosomiasis of the Fallopian tubes.

Conclusion

Genital schistosomiasis adds to the disease burden of women in all age groups. Pathological consequences due to the involvement of different genital organs can be damaging for the affected women. Clinical unawareness of genital schistosomiasis can lead to misdiagnosis and therefore false and ineffective therapy. In endemic areas cervical schistosomiasis should be considered as differential diagnosis of cancer.