The Epidemiology of Soil-Transmitted Helminths in Bihar State, India

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Abstract

© 2015 Greenland et al. Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) infect over a billion individuals worldwide. In India, 241 million children are estimated to need deworming to avert the negative consequences STH infections can have on child health and development. In February-April 2011, 17 million children in Bihar State were dewormed during a government-led school-based deworming campaign. Prior to programme implementation, a study was conducted to assess STH prevalence in the school-age population to direct the programme. The study also investigated risk factors for STH infections, including caste, literacy, and defecation and hygiene practices, in order to inform the development of complementary interventions. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among children in 20 schools in Bihar. In addition to providing stool samples for identification of STH infections, children completed a short questionnaire detailing their usual defecation and hand-hygiene practices. Risk factors for STH infections were explored. In January-February 2011, 1279 school children aged four to seventeen provided stool samples and 1157 children also completed the questionnaire. Overall, 68% of children (10-86% across schools) were infected with one or more soil-transmitted helminth species. The prevalence of ascariasis, hookworm and trichuriasis was 52%, 42% and 5% respectively. The majority of children (95%) practiced open defecation and reported most frequently cleansing hands with soil (61%). Increasing age, lack of maternal literacy and certain castes were independently associated with hookworm infection. Absence of a hand-washing station at the schools was also independently associated with A. lumbricoides infection. STH prevalence in Bihar is high, and justifies mass deworming in school-aged children. Open defecation is common-place and hands are often cleansed using soil. The findings reported here can be used to help direct messaging appropriate to mothers with low levels of literacy and emphasise the importance of water and sanitation in the control of helminths and other diseases.

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Greenland, K., Dixon, R., Khan, S. A., Gunawardena, K., Kihara, J. H., Smith, J. L., … Kumar, S. (2015). The Epidemiology of Soil-Transmitted Helminths in Bihar State, India. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0003790

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