Research Article

Predisposition to ascariasis: patterns, mechanisms and implications

C. V. HOLLANDa1 c1

a1 Department of Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland


Ascaris lumbricoides, the human roundworm, is a remarkably infectious and persistent parasite. It is a member of the soil-transmitted helminths or geohelminths and infects in the order of 1472 million people worldwide. Despite, its high prevalence and wide distribution it remains along with its geohelminth counterparts, a neglected disease. Ascariasis is associated with both chronic and acute morbidity, particularly in growing children, and the level of morbidity assessed as disability-adjusted life years is about 10·5 million. Like other macroparasite infections, the frequency distribution of A. lumbricoides is aggregated or overdispersed with most hosts harbouring few or no worms and a small proportion harbouring very heavy infections. Furthermore, after chemotherapeutic treatment, individuals demonstrate consistency in the pattern of re-infection with ascariasis, described as predisposition. These epidemiological phenomena have been identified, in a consistent manner, from a range of geographical locations in both children and adults. However, what has proved to be much more refractory to investigation has been the mechanisms that contribute to the observed epidemiological patterns. Parallel observations utilizing human subjects and appropriate animal model systems are essential to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying susceptibility/resistance to ascariasis. Furthermore, these patterns of Ascaris intensity and re-infection have broader implications with respect to helminth control and interactions with other important bystander infections.

(Received January 02 2009)

(Revised February 26 2009)

(Accepted February 27 2009)

(Online publication May 19 2009)


c1 Corresponding author. Tel: +353 1-8961096. E-mail: