Prospects for elimination of soil-transmitted helminths

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) are endemic in 120 countries and are associated with substantial morbidity and loss of economic productivity. Although current WHO guidelines focus on morbidity control through mass drug administration (MDA), there is global interest in whether a strategy targeting disease elimination might be feasible in some settings. This review summarizes the prospects for switching from control to an elimination strategy.

Recent findings

STH control efforts have reduced the intensity of infections in targeted populations with associated reductions in morbidity. However, adults are not frequently targeted and remain important reservoirs for reinfection of treated children. Recent modeling suggests that transmission interruption may be possible through expanded community-wide delivery of MDA, the feasibility of which has been demonstrated by other programs. However, these models suggest that high levels of coverage and compliance must be achieved. Potential challenges include the risk of prematurely dismantling STH programs and the potential increased risk of antihelminthic resistance.

Summary

Elimination of STH may offer an opportunity to eliminate substantial STH-related morbidity while reducing resource needs of neglected tropical disease programs. Evidence from large community trials is needed to determine the feasibility of interrupting the transmission of STH in some geographic settings.

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