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Soil-transmitted helminth infections associated with wastewater and sludge reuse: a review of current evidence.

OBJECTIVE: To review current evidence on infections related to the concentration of soil-transmitted helminth (STH) eggs in wastewater, sludge and vegetables irrigated with wastewater or grown on sludge-amended soils.

METHOD: Search of Web of Science, Science Direct, PubMed and Google Scholar databases for publications reporting on STH egg concentration in wastewater, sludge and vegetables and for epidemiological studies on wastewater/sludge reuse and STH infections.

RESULTS: STH egg concentrations were variable but high in wastewater and sludge especially in developing countries. They ranged from 6 to 16 000 eggs/L in wastewater and from 0 to 23 000 eggs/g in sludge and far exceed limits set in the WHO guideline for wastewater/sludge reuse. Numbers of STH eggs on vegetables ranged from 0 to 100 eggs/g. The concentration of STH eggs in wastewater, sludge and vegetables therefore relates to risks of infection through different exposure routes.

CONCLUSION: Epidemiological evidence reveals an increased prevalence of STH infections associated with direct exposure to wastewater or sludge (farmers) and consumption of vegetables grown on soil treated with it. This calls for increased efforts to reduce the adverse health impact of wastewater and sludge reuse in line with the WHO multi-barrier approach.

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