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Soil-transmitted helminth infection among most common infections worldwide

Soil-transmitted helminth infection among most common infections worldwide

Kolkata, Dec 20 (UNI) Soil-transmitted helminth infections are among the

most common infection worldwide and affect the poorest and most

deprived communities.

They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn

contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor. The main species

that infect people are the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the

whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus

and Ancylostoma duodenale).

More than 1.5 billion people, or 24 per cent of the world’s population,

are infected with soil-transmitted helminth infections worldwide. Infections

are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas, with the greatest

numbers occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East


Over 267 million preschool-age children and over 568 million school-

age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively

transmitted, and are in need of treatment and preventive interventions.

Soil-transmitted helminths are transmitted by eggs that are passed in

the faeces of infected people. Adult worms live in the intestine where

they produce thousands of eggs each day.

In areas that lack adequate sanitation, these eggs contaminate the soil.

This can happen in several ways: eggs that are attached to vegetables are

ingested when the vegetables are not carefully cooked, washed or peeled;

eggs are ingested from contaminated water sources; eggs are ingested by

children who play in the contaminated soil and then put their hands in their

mouths without washing them.

In addition, hookworm eggs hatch in the soil, releasing larvae that

mature into a form that can actively penetrate the skin. People become

infected with hookworm primarily by walking barefoot on the contaminated


There is no direct person-to-person transmission, or infection from fresh

faeces, because eggs passed in faeces need about three weeks to mature in

the soil before they become infective. Since these worms do not multiply in

the human host, re-infection occurs only as a result of contact with

infective stages in the environment.

Soil-transmitted helminths impair the nutritional status of the people

they infect in multiple ways.

The worms feed on host tissues, including blood, which leads to a loss

of iron and protein.


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