Can Turmeric Help Prevent Complications from Schistosomiasis?


Swimming in contaminated water could prove hazardous to your health. One of the most prevalent infections is commonly known as swimmer's itch, a skin infection caused by the larva of Schistosoma parasites. However, this itchy, bumpy skin rash is hardly the worst outcome of infection by the Schistosoma species. In fact, S. mansoni and S. japonicum can cause serious disease. Fortunately, studies suggest turmeric could help minimize risks associated with chronic schistosomiasis infections. (vii.297)

Although chronic schistosomiasis is most prevalent in tropical Africa, Caribbean islands (e.g., Puerto Rico), South American countries (e.g., Brazil and Venezuela), China, and the Philippines, travelers to these countries can also be exposed. After they penetrate the skin, S. mansoni and S. japonicum parasites travel through the blood to the lungs. They then settle into other organs (typically the bladder, bowel, and liver), where they mature, mate, and lay eggs. Once this happens, the infection can become a chronic inflammatory condition that causes tissue damage in these organs. (vii.297)

Conventional treatment is typically praziquantel, a drug that kills the worms. Side effects are generally not serious. However, there are recent indications of developing drug resistance by the parasite. Moreover, it's not the worms that cause the worse damage — it's the eggs that get trapped in the tissue instead of passing out through the intestines. Turmeric's curcumin compounds forces male and female parasites apart, which significantly reduces egg production. (vii.297-299)

Studies Show...

Lab studies with curcumin indicate the turmeric compound's effect on worms is gender-specific. Results showed that curcumin killed 10 times as many male worms than female. (vii.299)

In one animal study, mice infected with S. japonica were randomly divided into 3 groups. One of the groups was untreated, and the other 2 groups were treated with either praziquantel alone or praziquantel with curcumin. When liver tissue was examined, the group treated with curcumin and praziquantel had significantly less fibrotic changes than either of the other 2 groups. These results suggest that curcumin could enhance treatment outcomes and limit liver damage in patients with schistosmiasis. (vii.300)

Turmeric extracts did not perform as well as praziquantel in killing S. mansoni worms in infected mice. However, turmeric was twice as effective as the drug in eliminating trapped eggs in the livers of infected animals. At the end of the 3 month study, livers of those mice treated with turmeric were almost normal. Turmeric had not only gotten rid of the eggs, but also reduced the inflammatory changes in liver tissue. (vii.298)

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