RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
School-based deworming program yields small improvement in growth of Zanzibari school children after one year.
Efficacy trials of antihelminthic therapies conducted in Africa have reported improvements in children's growth, but nutritional evaluations of large-scale deworming programs are lacking. We evaluated the first-year effect on growth of a school-based deworming program in Zanzibar, where growth retardation occurs in school children. Children in four primary schools were given thrice-yearly mebendazole (500 mg) and compared with children in four schools that received twice-yearly mebendazole and children in four non-program schools. Evaluation schools were randomly selected and allocated to control, twice-yearly or thrice-yearly deworming. Approximately 1000 children in each program group completed the 1-y follow-up. Children <10 y old gained 0.27 kg more weight (P < 0.05) and 0.13 cm more height (P = 0.20) in the twice-yearly group, and 0. 20 kg more weight (P = 0.07) and 0.30 cm more height (P < 0.01) in the thrice-yearly group, compared with the control group. Children <10 y old with higher heights-for-age at baseline had higher weight and height gains in response to deworming. In children >/=10 y old, overall program effects on height or weight gains were not significant. But in this age range, younger boys had significant improvements in height gain with thrice-yearly deworming, and children with higher heights-for-age had greater improvements in weight gain with deworming. We conclude that the deworming program improved the growth of school children, especially children who were younger and less stunted, but the improvements were small. More effective antihelminthic regimens or additional dietary or disease control interventions may be needed to substantially improve the growth of school children in areas such as Zanzibar.
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