21:16 GMT27 November 2020
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    A parasitic worm which has infected more than 250 million people with Schistosomiasis (FGS) may be responsible for higher risks of contracting HIV, a new study suggests.

    A study recently conducted in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique revealed that a widespread parasitic disease may be responsible for the disproportionate rates of HIV in the region.

    Picked up in contaminated water, the worm can drill through people's skin and lay eggs in their bodies, including genital areas. Sores caused by the worms make women three times more vulnerable to HIV, experts in the tropical disease said, prior a conference on HIV in London.

    "It's going completely under the radar," Marianne Comparet, director of the London-based International Society for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ISNTD), said in an interview, as cited by Reuters.

    "Treating one could really impact on the other."

    A sharp increase in the amount of HIV virus was observed in the semen of men with the worms in their genitals, researchers claim.

    The drug killing the worms is not expensive, and has been donated for years to the World Health Organization (WHO). Using it could significantly cut the spread of HIV, according to the scientists.

    "In the same way that circumcision came out as something that really changed the way people approached HIV transmission, this could really be the next big thing in controlling HIV transmission," Comparet said.


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