Soil transmitted helmiths in humans
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Infections with soil-transmitted helminths (STH) occurs throughout the developing world and remains a major public health problem in the poorest communities with enormous consequences on health and development of school-aged and pre-school children. Infection is caused by four main species of worms commonly known as roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworms (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus). It is estimated that STH affects more than 2 billion people worldwide, and the greatest numbers of infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East Asia. The morbidity caused by these worms is commonly associated with heavy infection intensities. School aged children and pre-school children are the most vulnerable group and they harbour the greatest numbers of intestinal worms. As a result, they experience growth stunting and diminished physical fitness as well as impaired memory and cognition (Crompton and Nesheim, 2002; Stephenson et al., 2000; Bethony et al., 2006). These adverse health consequences combine to impair childhood educational performance and reduce school attendance (Miguel and Kremer, 2004; Hotez et al., 2008).
Today, preventive chemotherapy (PCT) programmes in which single-dose albendazole 400 mg or single-dose mebendazole 500 mg – the drugs of choice for STHs – are administered, is the main strategy for STH control (WHO, 2006) and a scale-up of these large-scale programmes is underway in various parts of Africa, Asia and South-America.
Currently, we are entering a new era of combating STH: the WHO has made a roadmap to guide implementation of the policies and strategies set out in the Global Plan to combat NTD 2008-2015; and more than 70 pharmaceutical companies, governments and global health organisations have committed to support the implementation of this roadmap in the London Declaration on NTD (January 31, 2012) by sustaining or expanding existing drug donation programmes, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and under the leadership and coordination of WHO.


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