We sailed for three hours through Lake Victoria, on board a boat with 2 people and .5 chickens per seat, to Ukerewe island. Ukerewe island is a not so small island of 350,000 people in the middle of Lake Victoria where Schistosomiasis, a waterborne pathogen present in Lake Victoria, is endemic. Ukerewe has one hospital, in which the entire small staff of doctors is trained to perform surgeries. From the beach at our hotel every night we saw masses of people bathing and women washing clothes in Lake Victoria, the oasis for Schistosomiasis. For a week our team has worked at the hospital at Ukerewe with Dr.Majula, an expert in neglected tropical diseases. After Dr. Majula made an announcement to the community about our research, people lined up to be scanned, curious to see if years of schistosomiasis exposure had an impact on their organs. Almost everyone tested had either current Schistosomiasis or had the infection at some point in their life, most multiple times. What we saw on ultrasound was surprising, massive distended bowel, not outlined in the WHO procedure that our protocol was modeled after. What also surprised us are things we didn’t detect on ultrasound, significant liver and bladder pathology. We were also lucky enough to work with the lab at the hospital that provides free Schistosomiasis testing. The lab is modern and open 24hrs a day, unless the water is out, which can shut the lab for several days. When there was a lull in interested study subjects, we were also lucky enough to shadow in the wards. We observed an unplanned c-section and performed requested ultrasound scans with Dr. Boughton on inpatients.
Our experience at Ukerewe was not only an incredible opportunity for research but also a great chance to see unique pathology, which is usually dispersed among all the hospitals in Mwanza. As excited as we are about a potential use for ultrasound in areas with chronic Schistosomiasis, it is clear that there needs to be environmental changes to reduce the rates and problems caused by Schistosomiasis in the Lake Victoria regions.
Masha, Lauren, Megan, Kevin, Kate and Mikey
Masha and Lauren at the Lab
Megan and Mikey with Dr. Majula