Research Article

The importance of host age and sex to patterns of reinfection with Ascaris lumbricoides following mass anthelmintic treatment in a South Indian fishing community

D. B. Elkinsa1 p1, Melissa Haswell-Elkinsa1 p1 and R. M. Andersona1

a1 Parasite Epidemiology Research Group, Department of Pure and Applied Biology, Imperial College, University of London, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BB


Analysis of egg and worm counts of Ascaris recorded at various intervals following a mass anthelmintic treatment programme in a South Indian fishing community is presented. Three indices of infection in the community are compared, namely the prevalence and intensity of egg output (at 2, 6 and 11 months following treatment) and the number of worms expelled following an 11 month period of reinfection. Detailed examination of these measurements revealed significant associations with patient sex and age. The age-prevalence profile of Ascaris infection changed little over time (except immediately following treatment) with the peak prevalence found in the 5–9 year age group. Although 85% of both males and females harboured Ascaris initially, the prevalence following 11 months reinfection was decreased, due to a significantly lower proportion of males being reinfected. By the 11th month of reinfection, the age-intensity profiles of egg output were similar to those observed at initial treatment in the older age groups (10 years and above) and in male children (< 10 years). However, a dramatic increase in the egg output of female children, greatly exceeding the initial mean, was observed within a 6 month period of reinfection. The intensity of egg output did not accurately reflect the abundance of Ascaris recovered via drug-induced expulsion following an 11 month period of reinfection. Although the egg output attained preintervention levels, the average worm intensity reached only half the initial value. The trends in the sex- and age-intensity profiles were consistent at the two sampling dates and showed similar patterns to the egg output curves. The relevance of the results to helminth control and the monitoring of reinfection is discussed.

(Accepted August 09 1987)


p1 Present address and address for reprints: Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Bramston Terrace, Herston, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4000.