Malnutrition and intestinal helminth infections in schoolchildren from Dibanda, Cameroon

Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, Cameroon.
Journal of Helminthology (Impact Factor: 1.42). 01/2012; DOI: 10.1017/S0022149X12000016
Source: PubMed


Intestinal helminth infections and malnutrition constitute a major health burden in developing countries, with infants and children being the most vulnerable groups. The extent of the burden of intestinal helminth infections and malnutrition was investigated in a cross-sectional study involving 265 children aged between 4 and 14 years residing in Dibanda, a semi-rural area located in Buea, South West Region, Cameroon. The prevalence of intestinal helminth infections was determined microscopically after faecal samples were prepared by the formol-ether sedimentation concentration technique of stool analysis. Nutritional status was determined using age and the anthropometric parameters of weight and height. Standard deviation (SD) or Z scores of height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-age (WAZ) and weight-for-height (WHZ) were computed based on the World Health Organization 2006 growth reference curves. Anaemia was assessed by packed cell volume (PCV). The prevalence of intestinal helminth infection in the study population was 47.2% (125/265). All infections were of low intensity, with Ascaris recording the highest geometric mean egg count (GMEC) ± SEM of 363.51 ± 60.35 (egg count range: 76-3000 eggs/gram of stool). Overall, 42.3% of children had PCV < 31%. Also, 47.2% of those with intestinal helminth infections also had PCV < 31%. The prevalence of malnutrition was 30.2% (80/265). Of 80 malnourished children, 5.3% were wasted ( < - 2SD weight-for-height Z-score), 7.2% underweight ( < - 2SD weight-for-age Z score) and 24.2% stunted ( < - 2SD height-for-age Z score). The mean values of all the anthropometric indices were lower in helminth-infected children. Findings from this study are strongly suggestive that intestinal helminth infections and malnutrition exist in children residing in Dibanda and constitute a major health problem that needs to be addressed immediately to reduce morbidity and mortality.

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