Schistosomiasis research in Africa: how the CONTRAST alliance made it happen.Acta Trop. 2013 Nov; 128(2):182-95.AT
In May 2012, the World Health Assembly passed resolution WHA 65.21, calling upon member states to intensify schistosomiasis control and, wherever possible, to attempt transmission interruption and initiate interventions towards local elimination. It is now clear that CONTRAST--a multidisciplinary alliance to optimize schistosomiasis control and transmission surveillance in sub-Saharan Africa--was ahead of the game. Indeed, launched in October 2006, this 4-year project funded by the European Commission made important contributions for sustainable schistosomiasis control in the selected African countries through innovation, validation and application of new tools and locally adapted intervention strategies complementary to preventive chemotherapy. Moreover, CONTRAST articulated a research agenda for schistosomiasis elimination, framed by 10 key questions. Here, we provide a rationale for CONTRAST and discuss its overarching goal, the interrelated objectives, establishment and running of a research node network across Africa, partnership configuration and modus operandi of the project. A collection of 25 articles is presented that are grouped into five main themes: molecular, biological, spatial, social and cross-cutting issues pertaining to the epidemiology and control of schistosomiasis. We summarize key achievements made by CONTRAST, many of which are featured in this special issue of Acta Tropica. Together with an independent view put forth by an eminent schistosomiasis researcher, the current piece provides an umbrella for the 25-article collection, including current gaps and remaining research needs. Finally, post-CONTRAST initiatives are discussed and a speculative viewpoint is given on how schistosomiasis control/elimination will have evolved over the next several years.