STH infections are one of the top causes of morbidity among school-aged children. Though they do not often result in death, symptoms such as malnutrition and cognitive impairment inhibit success in school and beyond. Earlier studies in the US suggested that freedom from hookworm infection raised lifetime income up to 45%.
Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) are intestinal worms transmitted through fecal-oral contamination or through the skin. They include hookworm, roundworm and whipworm. Heavy worm burdens lead to malnutrition, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite and impaired cognitive and physical development in children.
Strategy for Elimination / Eradication / Control
The strategy for control1 of soil-transmitted helminth infections is to control morbidity through the periodic treatment of at-risk people living in endemic areas. WHO recommends periodic drug treatment (deworming) without previous individual diagnosis to all at-risk people living in endemic areas.
Treatment should be given once a year when the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infections in the community is over 20%, and twice a year when the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth infections in the community is over 50%. This intervention reduces morbidity by reducing the worm burden. The recommended medicines – albendazole (400 mg) and mebendazole (500 mg) – are effective, inexpensive, and easy to administer by non-medical personnel.
1. Control is defined as 50% of preschool and school-aged children in need are treated and 100% of countries have a plan of action by 2015; 75% of preschool and school-aged children in need are treated and 100% of countries have 75% of coverage for preschool and school-aged children by 2020.