Soil Transmitted Helminthiases and Schistosomiasis


With delayed treatment, schistosome and soil transmitted helminth (STH) infections in young children (<5 years)could potentially lead to irreversible lifelong detrimental health effects. This is because these infections are known tocause suboptimal growth and development in this critical phase of life. The present study sought to document theburden of schistosome and STH infections in TaitaTaveta County, Kenya, by determining the prevalence andintensity of the infections in children less than 5 years of age. The study also appraised the association betweeninfections with schistosomes, anaemia and nutritional status in children. A total of 132 children, 53.8% males, wereenrolled in the survey. The number of children who were diagnosed with schistosomiasis was 37 (prevalence 28.0%;95% confidence interval (CI) 21.1%-36.2%). Infections with S. haematobium and S. mansoniwere detected in 18.9%(95% CI 13.2%-26.5%) and 15.9% (95% CI 10.7%-23.1%) of the surveyed children, respectively. Seventeen childrentested positive for infection with any STH (prevalence 6.8%; 95% CI 3.6%-12.5%). Species-specific prevalencesofSTH were: A. lumbricoides(6.8%), hookworm (4.5%) and T. trichiura(1.5%). Four children (16.0%) had heavyintensity S. haematobium infections. No heavy intensity infections were detected in children who were infected withSTH and S. mansoni. Nutritional indices which were associated with schistosome infections included stunting ((oddsratio (OR) 3.665 (95% CI 1.443-9.309), p=0.006) and being underweight (OR 12.698 (95% CI 3.107-51.900,p<0.001). Anaemia was more prevalent among children who tested positive for infections with schistosomeswhencompared with their schistosome-negative counterparts (57.1% vs. 42.9% respectively, OR 7.897 (95% CI3.383-18.438), p<0.001). The study established that schistosome and STH infections are prevalent in children under5 years in the study area thus presenting a potentially significant public health concern. The children should beprioritized for interventions including being incorporated in the mass deworming programme which currently targetsschool age children.

Infection with schistosome and soil transmitted helminths(STH) remain a key public health challenge in sub-SaharanAfrica. The two infections are closely linked to poverty inaddition to inadequate safe water, sanitation and hygiene [1].Though these infections are prevalent in all age groups,preschool age children (PSAC), school age children (SAC) andwomen of reproductive age are considered to be at high risk ofmorbidities associated with STH and schistosome infections [2].Chronic infections with STH and schistosomescompromisegrowth, development, cognition, iron status and naivety ofimmune system which further increase susceptibility toinfections [3]. Blood losses from haematuria and faecal occultblood from schistosome infections affects iron balance causinganaemia. Additionally, STH given their distinctive nicheperpetually deprive the host vital nutrients [4]. Research studiesin PSAC have demonstrated that STH and schistosomeinfections occur in early childhood, and if untreated can lead toundesirable health consequences later in life [5,6]. Furthermore,it has been observed that a substantial population of PSAC areat risk of infections with schistosomes and STH. For instance,according to Albonico and colleagues [3] about 10% to 20% ofthe 3.5 billion people residing in areas where STH endemic arePSAC.

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Allison Grey
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Journal of Infectious Diseases and Diagnosis