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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Malaria and related outcomes in patients with intestinal helminths: a cross-sectional study

Abraham Degarege*, Mengistu Legesse, Girmay Medhin, Abebe Animut and Berhanu Erko

Author affiliations

Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University, P.O. Box 1176, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Citation and License

BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:291  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-291

Published: 9 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The effects of helminth co-infection on malaria in humans remain uncertain. This study aimed to evaluate the nature of association of intestinal helminths with prevalence and clinical outcomes of Plasmodium infection.

Methods

A cross-sectional study involving 1,065 malaria suspected febrile patients was conducted at Dore Bafeno Health Center, Southern Ethiopia, from December 2010 to February 2011. Plasmodium and intestinal helminth infections were diagnosed using Giemsa-stained blood films and Kato-Katz technique, respectively. Haemoglobin level was determined using a haemocue machine.

Results

Among 1,065 malaria suspected febrile patients, 28.8% were positive for Plasmodium parasites (P. falciparum =13.0%, P. vivax =14.5%, P. falciparum and P. vivax =1.3%). Among 702 patients who provided stool samples, 53.8%, 31.6% and 19.4% were infected with intestinal helminths, Plasmodium alone and with both Plasmodium and intestinal helminths, respectively. The prevalence of infections with Ascaris lumbricoides (A. lumbricoides), Trichuris trichiura (T. trichiura), Schistosoma mansoni (S. mansoni) and hookworm (9.8%) were 35.9%, 15.8%, 11.7% and 9.8%, respectively. Out of the 222 (31.6%) Plasmodium infected cases, 9 (4.1%) had severe malaria. P. falciparum infection was more common in febrile patients infected with A. lumbricoides alone (21.3%), T. trichiura alone (23.1%) and S. mansoni alone (23.1%) compared to those without intestinal helminth infections (9.3%) (p<0.001 for all). Prevalence of non-severe malaria was significantly higher in individuals infected with intestinal helminths than in those who were not infected with intestinal helminths (adjusted OR=1.58, 95% CI=1.13-2.22). The chance of developing non-severe P. falciparum malaria were 2.6, 2.8 and 3.3 times higher in individuals infected with A. lumbricoides alone, T. trichiura alone and S. mansoni alone, respectively, compared to intestinal helminth-free individuals (p<0.05 for all). The odds ratio for being infected with non-severe P. falciparum increased with the number of intestinal helminth species (p<0.001). Mean Plasmodium density among intestinal helminth infected individuals was significantly increased with the number of intestinal helminths species (p=0.027). Individuals who were co-infected with different species of intestinal helminths and Plasmodium showed lower mean haemoglobin concentration than individuals who were infected only with Plasmodium.

Conclusions

Infections with A. lumbricoides, T. trichiura and S. mansoni were positively associated with P. falciparum infection. However, further studies are required to investigate how these helminths could contribute to increased prevalence of P. falciparum infection.

Keywords:
Non-severe malaria; Association; Intestinal helminths; Plasmodium; Co-infections; Ethiopia