Research Article

Community control of helminth infections of man by mass and selective chemotherapy

R. M. Andersona1 and G. F. Medleya1

a1 Department of Pure and Applied Biology, Imperial College, London University, London SW7 2BB

The design of mass and targetted community-based chemotherapy programmes for the control of the major helminth infections of man is discussed in relation to the population and transmission dynamics of the parasites. Rapid reinfection following a single mass or targetted anthelmintic application is shown to be a universal feature of helminth transmission, as a consequence of the regulatory or feed-back mechanisms controlling population abundance within both individuals and the community as a whole. Control of reinfection requires repeated community treatment where the intensity of application and the interval between treatments are dependent on the reproductive life-expectancy of the adult worm, the net force of transmission prior to control (the basic reproductive rate) and the factors which create aggregation in the distribution of parasite loads within the population. Selective or targetted treatment is shown to be most effective for the control of morbidity as opposed to the control of transmission. The impact of targetted treatment depends critically on the factors that generate heterogeneity in parasite burdens and on whether or not selectivity is based on a single or repeated identification of the ‘wormy’ fraction of the community. Monte Carlo simulation studies are employed to assess the likely impacts of different control strategies on average parasite abundance/person and the distributions of parasite loads within populations. Future epidemiological research needs are discussed in relation to theoretical work and recent field studies of predisposition to heavy infection.