Childhood Malnutrition and Parasitic Helminth Interactions

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Background. There is evidence to support that nutritional deficiency can reduce the body's immune function, thereby decreasing resistance to disease and increasing susceptibility to intestinal parasites.

Methods. A cross-sectional survey was carried out on 693 school-aged children from 5 schistosomiasis-endemic villages in Northern Samar, the Philippines. Data on dietary intake, nutritional status, and intestinal parasitic infection were collected.

Results. The prevalence of stunting, thinness, and wasting was 49.2%, 27.8%, and 59.7% of all children. The proportion of children infected with Schistosomajaponicum (15.6%, P = .03) and hookworm (22.0%, P = .05) were significantly lower among children who met the recommended energy and nutrient intake (RENI) for total calories. The percentage of children infected with Trichuris trichiura was highest among children who did not meet the RENI for energy (74.1%, P = .04), iron (73.4%, P = .01), thiamine (74.0%, P = .00), and riboflavin (73.3%, P = .01). Susceptibility to having 1 or more parasitic infections was significantly associated with poor intake of energy (P = .04), thiamine (P = .02), and riboflavin (P = .01).The proportion of stunted children was significantly higher among children who did not meet the RENI for energy (68.9%, P = .002), protein (54.0%, P = .004), or niacin (30.8%, P = .02) and for those infected with hookworm (31.8%, P = .0002). After adjusting for potential confounders, protein intake less than the RENI (odds ratio [OR], 1.48; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03–2.14), and hookworm infection (OR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.22–2.55) were the major predictors of stunting.

Conclusions. The results support the hypothesis that poor nutrient intake may increase susceptibility to parasitic diseases and together they negatively affect childhood nutritional status.

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