Before crustaceans like crayfish, shrimp and prawns land on dinner plates, they fatten up -- and relish eating freshwater snails that transmit the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, the second most devastating parasitic disease worldwide, after malaria. New research led by University of California, Berkeley, scientists provides a roadmap for how entrepreneurs can harness freshwater prawns' appetite for snails to reduce disease transmission, while making a profit selling the tasty animals as food. The study results show how small-scale farming of freshwater prawns could be a win-win in emerging, developing economies where schistosomiasis is common. Freshwater prawns are already being produced around the world, from Louisiana to Thailand to Senegal and beyond. Juvenile prawns are raised in hatcheries, then stocked in waterways where schistosomiasis is transmitted, and finally harvested once they reach a marketable size. As the prawns grow, they feed on the snails that carry the schistosome parasite, according to the study. The parasite is not able to infect the prawns themselves, and schistosomiasis is not transmitted by ingestion, so raising, harvesting and consuming prawns cannot pass along the disease.
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