Soil-transmitted helminths, also known as intestinal worms, affect more than 1.5 billion people, or 24% of the world’s population (“helminth” means parasitic worm). Infections are caused by different specific of parasitic worms; the three most common intestinal worms are hookworm, ascaris (roundworm) and trichuris (whipworm).
Soil-transmitted helminths are transmitted by the feces of an infected person, which contaminate soil in areas that lack proper sanitation infrastructure. Roundworm and whipworm infections are transmitted by ingesting the parasite’s eggs, while hookworm is primarily transmitted by walking barefoot on contaminated soil. Once inside the body, the adult worms live in the intestines and produce thousands of eggs a day, impairing the body’s absorption of nutrients.
Soil-transmitted helminths cause malnutrition, anemia, abdominal pain, stunted growth and impaired cognitive function. These infections limit children’s educational opportunities by keeping them out of school, damaging their long-term economic potential. Children also die from these worms as a result of intestinal blockages.
Soil-transmitted helminth infections are diagnosed through the detection of parasitic worm eggs in stool samples using microscopic techniques.
Soil-transmitted helminth infections are controlled with safe and effective medicines. The World Health Organization recommends treating all school-age children, pregnant and childbearing women and adults in high-risk professions in endemic areas, with treatment continuing until the intensity of the infection is reduced to a level that the disease can be controlled.
In addition to deworming activities, soil-transmitted helminth control is based on improving sanitation infrastructure and health education to prevent re-infection. Increasing the availability of latrines reduces the likelihood that a person would come into contact with an intestinal worm, while encouraging good hygiene practices like hand washing before preparing food and after using the bathroom also helps limit potential contamination.
Francophone Africa is frequently overlooked by international development stakeholders when it comes to restoring sight and providing quality eye care. The Organization for the Prevention of Blindness (OPC) works with local governments, civil society organizations and communities to fight blindness, restore vision, encourage local ownership of eye health care systems and ensure human right to sight.