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Does vitamin A supplementation protect schoolchildren from acquiring soil-transmitted helminthiasis? A randomized controlled trial

Al-Mekhlafi, Hesham M, Anuar, Tengku Shahrul, Al-Zabedi, Ebtesam M, Al-Maktari, Mohamed T, Mahdy, Mohammed AK, Ahmed, Abdulhamid, Sallam, Atiya A, Abdullah, Wan Ariffin, Moktar, Norhayati, Surin, Johari
Parasites & vectors 2014 v.7 no.1 pp. 367
Ascaris, Trichuris, albendazole, ascariasis, developing countries, deworming, hookworms, indigenous species, nutrition education, poverty, protective effect, randomized clinical trials, rural areas, school children, trichuriasis, Malaysia
BACKGROUND: Despite the intensive global efforts to control intestinal parasitic infections, the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections is still very high in many developing countries particularly among children in rural areas. METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 250 Aboriginal schoolchildren in Malaysia to investigate the effects of a single high-dose of vitamin A supplementation (200 000 IU) on STH reinfection. The effect of the supplement was assessed at 3 and 6 months after receiving interventions; after a complete 3-day deworming course of 400 mg/daily of albendazole tablets. RESULTS: Almost all children (98.6%) were infected with at least one STH species. The overall prevalence of ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm infection was 67.8%, 95.5% and 13.4%, respectively. Reinfection rates of Ascaris, Trichuris and hookworm were high; at 6 months, assessment reached 80% of the prevalence reported before treatment. There were no significant differences in the reinfection rates and intensities of STH between vitamin A supplemented-children and those who received placebo at 3 and 6 months (p > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Vitamin A supplementation showed no protective effect against STH reinfection and this could be due to the high endemicity of STH in this community. Long-term interventions to reduce poverty will help significantly in reducing this continuing problem and there is no doubt that reducing intestinal parasitic infection would have a positive impact on the health, nutrition and education of these children. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered at as NCT00936091 .