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Political and health sector reforms, along with demographic, environmental and socio-economic transformations in the face of global warming, could cause the re-emergence of schistosomiasis in areas where transmission has been successfully interrupted and its emergence in previously non-endemic areas in China. In the present study, we used geographic information systems and remote sensing techniques to predict potential habitats of Oncomelania hupensis, the intermediate host snail of Schistosoma japonicum. Focussing on the Hongze, Baima and Gaoyou lakes in Jiangsu province in eastern China, we developed a model using the normalized difference vegetation index, a tasseled-cap transformed wetness index, and flooding areas to predict snail habitats at a small scale. Data were extracted from two Landsat images, one taken during a typical dry year and the other obtained three years later during a flooding event. An area of approximately 163.6 km2 was predicted as potential O. hupensis habitats around the three lakes, which accounts for 4.3% of the estimated snail habitats in China. In turn, these predicted snail habitats are risk areas for transmission of schistosomiasis, and hence illustrate the scale of the possible impact of climate change and other ecological transformations. The generated risk map can be used by health policy makers to guide mitigation policies targetting the possible spread of O. hupensis, and with the aim of containing the transmission of S. japonicum.
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