Evaluation of environmental methods to control snails in an irrigation system in Central Morocco


correspondence Dr Henry Madsen, Danish Bilharziasis Laboratory, Jægersborg Allé 1D, 2920, Charlottenlund, Denmark. E-mail: hm@bilharziasis.dk


The Moroccan Ministry of Public Health has launched a programme to eliminate schistosomiasis. One of the components in this process is the control of Bulinus truncatus, the intermediate host snail of Schistosoma haematobium. We evaluated three environmentally safe measures to control B. truncatus in siphon boxes, the main breeding sites for these snails in the Tessaout Amont irrigation system. The first method involved covering the siphon boxes to exclude light and reduce algal growth, the second consisted of increasing the frequency of emptying and cleaning the siphon boxes, and the third method increased water velocity to hinder the establishment of the intermediate hosts. The results showed that covering had a pronounced effect on snail and egg mass density, was accepted by the local community and prevented water contact. Cleaning the siphons three times during the irrigation season led to a reduction in snail density although it was not statistically significant and recolonization was rapid. Increasing water velocity by reducing the dimensions of siphon boxes delayed recolonization, but such a control measure can be applied only in specific situations where it does not pose hydraulic problems. The three interventions were selectively effective against B. truncatus, whereas other snails such as Physa acuta and Lymnaea peregra were hardly affected. Covering, the most promising control measure, could be useful in the Moroccan schistosomiasis eradication programme. However, further investigations are needed to assess its impact on water quality.