Researcher looks 'inside the box' for a sustainable solution for intestinal parasites

May 6, 2014

According to the World Health Organization, more than 450 million people worldwide, primarily children and pregnant women, suffer illness from soil-transmitted helminths (STH), intestinal parasites that live in humans and other animals. Considerable effort and resources have been, and continue to be, spent on top-down, medical-based programs focused on administering drugs to control STH infections, with little success. John Hawdon, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, advocates a more sustainable solution for controlling STH infections.

In a review published in the Journal of Parasitology, Hawdon proposes a new emphasis on sustainable, long-term investments in sanitation-based approaches. He promotes the use of improved latrines (the "box") to provide bottom-up, culturally appropriate, and economically desirable solutions to control STH in endemic areas.

Safe disposal of human waste has been shown to reduce STH prevalence and reinfection rates. While Western-style sanitation systems are not feasible in many regions, individual sanitation systems, such as the "" being used in areas of rural China, offer a solution. The biodigester is an individual household anaerobic fermentation system used to process organic waste. Waste enters an underground chamber from the toilet and pigpen. Methanogenic bacteria then act on the organic material, producing methane and other gases, referred to as 'biogas." The gas is colorless, odorless, burns similarly to liquid propane, and can provide almost 60 percent of a family's energy needs. The biodigester can also produce nitrogen-rich fertilizer that does not contain infective parasite eggs.

"With more than 39 million disability-adjusted life years lost to STH, control of STH infections is of the upmost importance," said Hawdon. "The use of biogas technology offers several advantages over current, unsustainable strategies of mass drug administration and vaccination."

Cost is often an obstacle to improving sanitation in underdeveloped parts of the world. However, the biodigester offers grassroots, community-driven sanitation without the cost of Western-style sanitation infrastructure. Its long-term costs could be much lower than the current disease treatment approach, making it a more cost-effective public health intervention.

Explore further: Deworming important for children's health, has limited impact on infection in wider communities

More information: The review, titled "Controlling Soil Transmitted Helminths: Time to Think Inside the Box?" is available at journalofparasitology.org/doi/ … 10.1645/13-412.1#_i3

Related Stories

Deworming important for children's health, has limited impact on infection in wider communities

February 28, 2013
Although they have an important impact on children's health and education, school-based deworming programmes have a limited impact on the level of infection in the wider community, according to a mathematical modeling study ...

Availability and use of sanitation reduces by half the likelihood of parasitic worm infections

January 24, 2012
Access to sanitation facilities, such as latrines, reduces by half the risk of becoming infected by parasitic worms that are transmitted via soil (soil-transmitted helminths) according to a study published in this week's ...

Access to improved water and sanitation varies widely within sub-Saharan Africa

April 8, 2014
Access to improved drinking water and sanitation is highly variable within individual countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a study published in this week's PLOS Medicine. Dr Rachel Pullan and colleagues, from ...

A disproportionate burden of neglected tropical diseases found in India and South Asia

October 26, 2011
The open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases today published a comprehensive report showcasing the disproportionately high burden of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in India and South Asia. These diseases of ...

Six in ten people worldwide lack access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation

February 20, 2013
It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but 6 out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation that protects the user and the surrounding community ...

Singapore champions sanitation on first World Toilet Day

November 19, 2013
Singapore called Tuesday for greater efforts to improve sanitation in developing countries as it celebrated the inaugural UN World Toilet Day, an initiative by the cleanliness-obsessed island republic.

Recommended for you

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

Raccoon roundworm—a hidden human parasite?

July 24, 2017
The raccoon that topples your trashcan and pillages your garden may leave more than just a mess. More likely than not, it also contaminates your yard with parasites—most notably, raccoon roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis).

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.