JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW
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Ascariasis and childhood malnutrition.

The present review will examine epidemiological perspectives and be confined mainly to the results of those field studies published since 1975 in order to provide concrete scientific evidence of the effect of ascariasis on childhood malnutrition, particularly on growth. The field studies were done in many developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America, using cross-sectional and intervention studies in which anthelmintics were employed, with different dosing frequency and follow-up periods ranging from 33 days to 2 years. In general, a better nutritional status in terms of growth, lactose tolerance, vitamins A and C, and albumin levels were observed among Ascaris-free or treated than among Ascaris-infected or untreated children even in cross-sectional or non-randomized studies. More importantly, the improvement in weight or height after chemotherapeutic treatment was found to be significant particularly in those randomized controlled studies with an initially high prevalence of ascariasis and malnutrition, a low prevalence of other intestinal parasites, repetitive and regular treatments of children with tetramisole, levamisole or pyrantel, within a period of 12 or 24 months. Reasons for failures to detect improved growth in some studies are provided. This review strongly indicates that A. lumbricoides infection definitely retards childhood growth.

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