Intervention strategies to reduce the burden of soil-transmitted helminths in India
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections continue to be a major global cause of morbidity, with a large proportion of the burden of STH infections occurring in India. In addition to direct health impacts of these infections, including anaemia and nutritional deficiencies in children, these infections also significantly impact economic development, as a result of delays in early childhood cognitive development and future income earning potential. The current World Health Organization strategy for STH is focused on morbidity control through the application of mass drug administration to all pre-school-aged and school-aged children. In India, the control of STH-related morbidity requires mobilization of significant human and financial resources, placing additional burdens on limited public resources. Infected adults and untreated children in the community act as a reservoir of infection by which treated children get rapidly reinfected. As a result, deworming programmes will need to be sustained indefinitely in the absence of other strategies to reduce reinfection, including water, hygiene and sanitation interventions (WASH). However, WASH interventions require sustained effort by the government or other agencies to build infrastructure and to promote healthy behavioural modifications, and their effectiveness is often limited by deeply entrenched cultural norms and behaviours. Novel strategies must be explored to provide a lasting solution to the problem of STH infections in India other than the indefinite provision of deworming for morbidity control.