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Stunting and soil-transmitted-helminth infections among school-age pupils in rural areas of southern China

Shang, Yu, Tang, Lin-Hua, Zhou, Shui-Sen, Chen, Ying-Dan, Yang, Yi-Chao, Lin, Shao-Xiong
Parasites & vectors 2010 v.3 no.1 pp. 225
World Health Organization, anemia, ascariasis, children, clinical examination, cross-sectional studies, developing countries, educational status, eggs, elementary schools, growth retardation, health education, hemoglobin, hookworms, hygiene, laboratory techniques, mixed infection, public health, questionnaires, regression analysis, risk factors, rural areas, sanitation, surveys, trichuriasis, China
BACKGROUND: Stunting and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections including ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm remain major public health problems in school-age pupils in developing countries. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of stunting for children and its association with three major soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in rural areas of southern China. The study also aims to determine risk factors for stunting and to provide guidance on the prevention and control of stunting and STH infections for future studies in this field. RESULTS: A cross-sectional survey was carried out in the poor rural areas in Guangxi Autonomous Regional and Hainan Province where STH prevalence was higher between September and November 2009. Pupils were from 15 primary schools. All the school-age pupils aged between 9 and 12 years old (mean age 11.2 ± 3.2 years), from grades three to six took part in this study. Study contents include questionnaire surveys, physical examination and laboratory methods (stool checking for eggs of three major STH infections and haemoglobin determination was performed for the anaemia test). Finally 1031 school-age pupils took part in survey. The results showed that the overall prevalence of stunting (HAZ < 2SD) was 25.6%, based on the WHO Child Growth Standards (2007). Risk factors for stunting based on logistic regression analyses were: (1) STH moderate-to-heavy intensity infections (OR = 1.93;95%CI:1.19,3.11); (2) anaemia (OR = 3.26;95%CI: 2.02,5.27); (3) education level of mother (OR = 2.13; 95%CI: 1.39,3.25). The overall prevalence of major STH infections was 36.7%, STH moderate-to-heavy intensity infections was 16.7%. The overall prevalence of ascariasis, trichuriasis, hookworm and co-infection were 18.5%, 11.2%, 14.7% and 9.1% respectively. The prevalence of anaemic children (HB < 12 g/dl) was 13.1%. CONCLUSION: The present study showed that stunting was highly prevalent among the study population and STH infection is one of the important risk factors for stunting, with moderate-to-heavy intensity infections being the main predictor of stunting. Hence, additional interventions measures such as to promote de-worming treatment, to enhance health education and to improve hygiene and sanitation in order to reduce stunting in this population, are needed throughout the primary school age group.