Soil-transmitted helminthes infection, which mainly affects and inhibits the mental and physical development of children in the age group of 5 to 14 years, can be effectively controlled and prevented by educating the children about the infection and measures to prevent it, suggests a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
With approximately two billion people affected worldwide by soil-transmitted helminthes, WHO has proposed strategic plans by which an estimated 295 million infected patients would benefit from deworming tablets this year.
AdvertisementIt has been known from previous studies that mass drug administration is effective in controlling the infection but without further awareness, the infection returns to previous levels within 6 to 18 months.
In an attempt to prevent the spread and reoccurrence of the infection, a team of researchers from University of Queensland, evaluated the efficacy of a health-educational program among schoolchildren in preventing the infection with soil-transmitted worms.
Researchers conducted their study in China where around 129 million people are infected. The randomized study involved 1718 students from 38 schools for a period of ten months.
The schools in the control group were given only a poster informing the children about the worm infections and preventive measures. While the schools in the intervention group received an educational package, which included a 12 minute awareness cartoon. The program also included classroom discussions, displaying posters, distributing pamphlets containing key points to prevent the infection, drawing and essay writing competitions to create awareness among the students.
Fecal samples of the students were examined for ascaris and trichuris worms at the start and end of the program. The students had completed a questionnaire, which evaluated their knowledge about the infection and hygienic behavior like washing hands before eating food and after using the toilet. Students had reported their good hygienic practices, which were also observed by the analysts at schools.
At the end of the program, researchers found that the incidence of infection had reduced by half in the intervention group when compared with the control group. This decrease in infection was attributed to the increased awareness and improved hygienic practices.
It was observed that the number of children who washed their hands after using the toilet had increased drastically in the intervention group, while it remained the same in the control group.
Authors thus note that complementing the current deworming strategy with video-based educational programs among schoolchildren will definitely be effective in controlling and preventing the infections.
Health-Education Package to Prevent Worm Infections in Chinese Schoolchildren; Franziska Bieri et al.