A prevalence survey of enteral parasites in preschool children in the Mangochi District of Malawi
Jones TPW., Hart JD., Kalua K., Bailey RL.
Abstract Background Helminthic and protozoan infections are common, particularly in low- or middle-income countries. Although an association between parasite carriage and markers of poor growth have been shown in some studies, systematic reviews have suggested only a modest impact of clearing carriage. The prevalence of these pathogens and the effect that they have on growth in preschool children has never been investigated in Malawi. Methods One hundred ninety-three children aged 0–72 months were randomly recruited from rural villages in the Mangochi district of Malawi. Formol-ether concentration was performed on stool and the samples examined with a light microscope. Anthropometric data was taken for each child and the haemoglobin measured with a point of care test. Results The mean age of the children was 2 years 4 months. Overall prevalence of intestinal parasite infection was 37.3%. Protozoa were found in 28.5% of children, while helminths were found in 8.8%. The most commonly found organisms were Giardia lambia (12.4%), Entamoeba coli (10.4%) and Hookworm species (3.6%). Stunting was seen in 47.8% of children, 12.9% were underweight and 5.0% were wasted. No significant association was found between markers of poor growth and infection with any intestinal parasite. Conclusions We found that prevalence of helminth infection was low in preschool children living in the Mangochi district compared to international standards. However a significant proportion of the preschool population are infected with protozoa, particularly Giardia lambia. In this cohort, despite a significant prevalence of stunting, helminth infection was not significantly associated with any markers of poor growth. The significance of protozoal carriage and contribution to growth restriction in this context creates further avenues for future research.