Soil-transmitted helminth infections are the most common infections worldwide and impact the poorest and most deprived populations. More than 1.5 billion people are infected with soil-transmitted helminth infections worldwide, which is about 24% of the global population.
STH infections are caused by diverse species of parasitic worms. The main species that affect humans are Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale.
STH infections are transmitted by eggs in the faeces of infected humans into the soil. The eggs sometimes attach to vegetables and fruits which are then consumed by humans when the vegetables and fruits are not properly washed, peeled or cooked. Also, the hands can be contaminated through farming, handling of contaminated fomites, children playing with the soil and the unwashed hands can also transmit eggs into the mouth. Eggs are also ingested from contaminated water.
Pre-school children, school-age children, women of reproductive age, people living in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene, and people who use unsafe water are at greater risk of STH infections. Poor education, insufficient health care and high-risk occupations (mining, farming, tea picking) also increase the incidence.
Symptoms of STH infections are intestinal manifestations (diarrhoea, abdominal pain, dysentery), weakness, weight loss/ impaired growth, loss of appetite and anaemia.
Stool Microscopy is used to identify helminth eggs. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) test is used to detect anaemia. Safe deworming, health and hygiene education, enhanced sanitation, safe medication and safe water sources help in controlling soil-transmitted helminth infections.
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