Height, zinc and soil-transmitted helminth infections in schoolchildren: A study in Cuba and Cambodia

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Abstract

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections and zinc deficiency are often found in low- and middle-income countries and are both known to affect child growth. However, studies combining data on zinc and STH are lacking. In two studies in schoolchildren in Cuba and Cambodia, we collected data on height, STH infection and zinc concentration in either plasma (Cambodia) or hair (Cuba). We analyzed whether STH and/or zinc were associated with height for age z-scores and whether STH and zinc were associated. In Cuba, STH prevalence was 8.4%; these were mainly Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura infections. In Cambodia, STH prevalence was 16.8%, mostly caused by hookworm. In Cuban children, STH infection had a strong association with height for age (aB-0.438, p = 0.001), while hair zinc was significantly associated with height for age only in STH uninfected children. In Cambodian children, plasma zinc was associated with height for age (aB-0.033, p = 0.029), but STH infection was not. Only in Cambodia, STH infection showed an association with zinc concentration (aB-0.233, p = 0.051). Factors influencing child growth differ between populations and may depend on prevalences of STH species and zinc deficiency. Further research is needed to elucidate these relationships and their underlying mechanisms.

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de Gier, B., Mpabanzi, L., Vereecken, K., van der Werff, S. D., D’Haese, P. C., Fiorentino, M., … Polman, K. (2015). Height, zinc and soil-transmitted helminth infections in schoolchildren: A study in Cuba and Cambodia. Nutrients, 7(4), 3000–3010. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7043000

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