Unhappy Returns

Xinmin is a village on the verge of extinction. Nearly every resident of this swampy, 1,000-strong hamlet in the central Chinese province of Hunan is infected by the parasitic worm Schistosoma japonicum. It spreads through the bloodstream, lays eggs in the liver and bladder, wriggles into the brain or embeds itself in the spine. Renal failure and paralysis may follow; death is painful and untimely. That is the grim fate awaiting Xinmin villager Wang Zengkun. The 45-year-old rice farmer first experienced the stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea that signal schistosomiasis three years ago. For a while, Wang fought the disease by...

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