Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis

2020 Target: Control (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).

Clinical Background: Soil-transmitted helminthes (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.

Epidemiology: More than one billion people in tropical and subtropical regions are estimated to be infected with the worms that cause STH. While STH result in low numbers of deaths, roughly 300 million people show severe symptoms.

Burden: 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%.

Treatment/Prevention Strategy: Multiple drugs can be used to treat the infections or for preventative chemotherapy. Albendazole (donated by GlaxoSmithKline), which is also used for LF, and mebendazole (donated by Johnson & Johnson) are most common.

Key Organizations: WHO works with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN organizations to control STH and schistosomiasis in developing countries. Children Without Worms is one of the key NGOs in this community and has managed the drug donation from Johnson & Johnson. Deworm the World provides technical support to countries to plan and implement STH control programs in partnerships with the Ministries of Education.

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