Research Article

Parasitic infection in malnourished school children: effects on behaviour and EEG

M. Levava1*, A. F. Mirskya1, P. M. Schantza2, S. Castroa3 and M. E. Cruza3

a1 Laboratory of Psychology and Psychopathology, NIMH, USA

a2 Parasitic Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control, USA

a3 Academia Ecuatoriana de Neurociencias, Quito, Ecuador

This paper describes a study of 194 children (aged 9–13) from a mountain village in Ecuador who were infected with one or more species of intestinal helminth or protozoan parasite. In addition to parasite load, the assessment consisted of a battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests, an EEG examination, measures of iodine level, presence of goitre and level of nutrition. We found that, in general, parasite infection, as measured at the baseline level, was not associated with cognitive impairment. The intensity of infection with A. lumbricoides, however, was correlated with the level of verbal ability and with inhibition-control aspects of cognitive behaviour. Multivariate analysis with level of nutrition, EEG status and parasite burden showed a consistent main effect of the degree of nutrition on neuropsychological performance, particularly the language, problem solving and inhibition-control dimensions.

(Received December 02 1993)

(Revised March 15 1994)

(Revised June 02 1994)

(Accepted June 02 1994)


* Reprint requests to: Dr M. Levav, Laboratory of Psychology and Psychopathology, National Institute of Mental Health, Building 10, Room 4C110, 10 Center Dr., MSC 1366, Bethesda, MD 20892-1366, USA