Prawns: Just because you can’t eat them, doesn’t mean you can’t use them to rid African waters of parasites.
So says Israeli student Amit Savaia, who is working on a project to reintroduce prawns to eat parasite-carrying snails in African waters.
Together with four other students from Beersheva’s Ben-Gurion University, Amit helped build a computer platform to connect African farmers, fisherman and villagers, in an effort to overcome schistosomiasis, the so-called “snail fever.”
Caused by ingesting parasites carried by snails, the disease is characterised by swollen bellies in African children and is the second most devastating in Africa after malaria.
“Schistosomiasis has no sustainable cure or treatment,” says Amit. “The only drug used today to heal the people is an old drug, which kills the mature worms inside the body. There is no vaccine.”
After completing his degree and taking off for Africa, he began working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Project Crevette (Prawn) in the west African state of Senegal, subsequently proving that when a particular type of prawn is reintroduced into a dammed river, they successfully eat the snails that carry the parasite.
“These prawns are distributed almost all over the west coast of Africa,” he says.
“We want to teach farmers how to produce the prawns so they can sell some for the markets as a crop, because they are delicious, and the rest will be released in the river with an agreement of the health ministry.”