Worms can be good for kids

Protect against malaria-induced anaemia

By Sugandh Juneja
Published: Saturday 31 July 2010

SEVERE anaemia is the major cause of death in malaria patients.

Soon after infection, parasite Plasmodium invades red blood cells and bursts them, causing anaemia. Controlling malaria has been a challenge for Asian and Latin American countries where helminthiasis, another anaemia-causing disease, is prevalent. It occurs when the body is infested with parasites like roundworm and hookworm.

The worm sucks blood from the host’s intestinal wall. Brazilian scientists have found the severity of anaemia dec - reases, rather than increasing, among those infected by both the parasites. Since children are particularly susceptible to anaemia, the team led by Marcus Lacerda of Tropical Medicine Foundation of Amazonas, evaluated the influence of worm infection on the haemoglobin (Hb) level of children suffering from malaria.

They examined 216 children, in the age group of 5-14, from two villages in the state of Amazonas, where a malaria species, P vivax, is endemic. Fifty-four of them were infected with malaria. The team analysed their stool and blood samples on alternate days for six months. Analyses revealed, Hb levels in some infected children remained same as the baseline level. Eighteen of these children were also infected with giant roundworm, 11 with hookworm and nine with human whipworm.

The Hb levels among children infected with malaria alone, however, decreased significantly. The Hb levels did not dip in those infected by both malaria parasites and intestinal worm, the scientists reported in the June issue of PLoS ONE. Vas Dev at the National Institute of Malaria Research, Guwahati, said a similar study should be conducted in India where both the infections are prevalent.

As per the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme estimates more than 19.5 million people in the country were infected with the mosquito- borne disease and 1,068 were killed in 2009. The result is, however, premature to conclude because the authors studied a small sample, Dev said.

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