Helminth Infections in Neonates and Young Children

Andrea J. Lack, MD; Jill E. Weatherhead, MD; Laila Woc-Colburn, MD, DTM&H


June 25, 2014

Helminthic Disease: Societal Costs, Reducing the Burden

Helminthic disease represents a global problem that rivals HIV and malaria in terms of DALYs and long-term morbidity.[2] Yet it lags considerably behind these high-profile infections in terms of awareness and funding. Helminthiasis is truly a neglected disease of neglected people.

Childhood helminth infections have been associated with reduced school performance, tests of cognition, and IQ.[41,42] These outcomes can result from chronic malnutrition, anemia, increased susceptibility to infection, and school absenteeism owing to illness. In adults, hookworm infections are associated with lower worker productivity, resulting in an estimated 43% reduction in earning potential.[43,44,45] Thus, childhood helminth infections not only preferentially affect those in poverty, but also perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Preventive chemoprophylactic programs have been advocated as important components to reduce the global burden of helminth infection. The WHO has published a handbook with current chemoprophylaxis guidelines, including recommendations for children according to age.[24] Other reduction strategies include sanitation projects and health education. Finally, efforts are under way to develop vaccines for schistosomiasis and hookworm.

In summary, helminthiasis represents a global problem with substantial consequences for neonates, young children, and society at large. Knowledge of these diseases and the special issues facing young patients is essential for anyone practicing in endemic areas.


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