MULTICENTER STUDY
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Jigger flea infestation (tungiasis) in rural western Tanzania: high prevalence and severe morbidity.

Epidemiologic and clinical data on the parasitic skin disease tungiasis are limited from sub-Saharan Africa, and virtually nonexistent from the East African region. We performed a community-based cross-sectional study in two villages in Kasulu district, western Tanzania. Study participants were examined for the presence of tungiasis and disease-associated morbidity. In total, 586 individuals >5 years of age were enrolled, and 249 (42.5%; 95% CI: 38.5-46.5) diagnosed with tungiasis. The ≥45 year-olds showed highest prevalence of tungiasis (71.1%) and most severe parasite load (median number of embedded fleas: 17.5; interquartile range: 15-22.5). Prevalence was slightly, but not significantly, higher in males than in females (45.3 vs 39.7%; p=0.17). Itching (68.3%), pain (38.6%) and ulcers (30.1%) were common; 22.1% of individuals found it difficult to walk due to tungiasis, and in 21.3% loss of toenails was observed. Considering the high prevalence and considerable morbidity in the population, we conclude that tungiasis is a public health threat in the study villages and that the disease needs to be recognized by health authorities. Future studies on risk factors, animal reservoirs and evidence-based control measures are needed.

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