Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Prevalence of Intestinal Parasites in Young Quichua Children in the Highlands of Rural Ecuador

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Prevalence of Intestinal Parasites in Young Quichua Children in the Highlands of Rural Ecuador

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The goal of this study was to determine the prevalence of various parasitic infections in young children in rural Quichua communities in Ecuador. The study was also aimed at assessing the relationship of latrine-use, water storage, water treatment, and community-based clean water projects that protected sources of drinking-water with illness and prevalence of intestinal parasites in children.

Several other epidemiological studies have assessed the prevalence of intestinal parasites in Ecuador or other parts of South America (1-10), but few have focused on rural areas, preschool children, the highland areas of the Andes, or Quichua populations. In addition to focusing on an under-studied population, we also tested for a greater variety of parasites than most previous studies. Stool samples were tested for several types of protozoans, such as Entamoeba histolytica/Entamoeba dispar, Entamoeba coli, Giardia intestinalis (lamblia), Chilomastix mesnili, and Cryptosporidium parvum, roundworms, such as Ascaris lumbricoides and Strongyloides stercoralis, tapeworms, such as Hymenolepis nana, also known as dwarf tapeworm, and Hymenolepis diminuta, and whipworm, Trichuris trichiura. Most of these agents are pathogenic, except E. dispar, Eschericia coli, and C. mesnili. Most of these parasitic agents have multiple possible transmission routes, including contact with contaminated food, water, soil, or excrement, so the availability of clean drinkingwater, an adequate volume of water for hygiene, and a sanitation system that properly disposes of human excrement may contribute to decreasing the incidence of these infections.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Community participants

Ten rural Quichua communities in the highlands of Chimborazo province in central Ecuador that had completed a clean water project in cooperation with a non-governmental community development organization at least one year prior to the start of the study were selected for inclusion in the study. The clean water projects consisted of three main components: (a) a protected water source, usually a spring, (b) a water-distribution system with protected water storage and buried piping that provides water to a spigot outside each home, and (c) a latrine for each household. Ten neighbouring communities with similar socioeconomic and geographic characteristics that had not yet participated in a clean water project were selected as control communities. All communities were more than 2,750 metres above the sea level. A member of the community development organization that facilitated the water projects visited each of the 20 communities in June 2005 to invite participation and again one or two day(s) prior to the survey day in August 2005 to prepare for the site visit. Letters reminding the community of the date of the community survey were sent to the elected president of each community in June and again two weeks before the study.

Child study population

We asked the elected president of each community to complete a community profile and provide a list of age-eligible children in the community before the study period. All households in each community with a child aged 12-60 months were invited to participate. If more than one child in the household was in the eligible age range, the youngest eligible child was selected for inclusion. Most communities listed 10-20 children aged 12-60 months. We were unable to determine an exact participation rate because not all communities provided a list of eligible children, and some children on the list were siblings, so they were not eligible for inclusion. We believe that we had a high participation rate because, in most communities that provided a list of children, all or nearly all the listed children participated in the study or were known to be a sibling of a child who participated. Free parasite testing and treatment and a physical examination by a physician were offered to all the children in the community under the age of 18 years, regardless of whether the household was participating in the study. …

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