Seven Most Common Neglected Tropical Diseases: Hookworm
Hookworm, what is it?
It is an intestinal parasite and is most commonly found in countries that have tropical or subtropical climates; this includes Africa and Latin America. Hookworm belongs to soil-transmitted helminthes (STH). The most deadly part is that if hookworm is not treated at the right time, it may lead to anemia, protein malnutrition, and many times even physical and mental impairment. Two common species of hookworm are:
- Necator americanus
Hookworm - Statistics:
- Nearly 576 million people are affected by hookworm in which 44 million comprises of pregnant women.
- Nearly 1/10th of the world population is affected by hookworm.
Hookworm - How it enters human body?
The transmission of hookworm is through the skin of the human body. Once in the body, it finds its way to the small intestine. These worms start to feed on the blood resulting in internal bleeding of blood, diarrhea, anemia, and protein malnutrition.
Hookworm requires the following to thrive:
- a temperature of 18 deg. C. and over
- sandy or loamy soil
- rainfall of 40 inches or 1000 mm a year
Hookworm - Symptoms:
- Itching or rashes in the skin after touching soil (if the soil is contaminated)
- Abdominal pain
- Epigastric pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Protein malnutrition
Hookworm - Who are at risk?
- People living in areas with poor sanitation.
- Pregnant women
- Preschool children
- People who are in direct contact with soil like farmers.
- Poverty plays a major role and hence most commonly found in tropical or subtropical countries like Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and China.
- People who live in countries where they lead a life for less than $2 a day.
Hookworm - Diagnosis:
- Stool test to find out hookworm eggs
- Blood test to check out complete blood count (CBC)
Hookworm - Treatment:
- Doctors may advise the following drugs:
- Anthelminthic drugs albendazole (Albenza)
- Mebendazole (Vermox) on an annual basis
Hookworm - Prevention:
- Teaching the importance of proper sanitation facilities.
- Not defecating in areas other than toilets.
- Not using human excreta as a form of fertilizer.
- Not walking barefoot in soil that is infected.
- De-worming children often as they play a lot in the soil.
NOTE: The Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative is currently working towards development of vaccine against hookworms and this is currently in Phase I clinical trial stage.
This disease clearly tells us the importance of proper sanitation.
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