Public Health - Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Chronic Urinary Schistosomiasis, the silent carcinogen: developing biomarkers for its detection
Squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder is extremely uncommon in the world, yet in Africa where Schistosoma haematobium is prevalent, this highly invasive and virulent cancer is the most prevalent type of bladder cancer. This information comes from hospital based studies, but we have no way to determine the extent of the problem in rural communities living in endemic areas. We have attempted to solve this problem by looking for biomarkers which can associate the parasite and the bladder cancer. In a series of 4 papers already published and one still in review we have examined the role of alterations in nuclear morphometry as well as epigenetic changes in tumor suppressive genes detected in cellular deposits taken from urine specimens. We also developed a new test for active S. haematobium infection by detecting parasite specific DNA in urine, and showing that this can be collected simply by filtering the urine in the field, drying the filter paper and returning it to the laboratory. We have named the test the “Hamburger-Abbassi” test in honour of the scientists that designed the primers we used in the test.