Open Access Research article

Prevalence of soil transmitted nematodes on Nukufetau, a remote Pacific island in Tuvalu

Rick Speare1*, Falatea Fab Latasi2, Tekaai Nelesone2, Sonia Harmen1, Wayne Melrose1, David Durrheim13 and Jorg Heukelbach4

Author Affiliations

1 Anton Breinl Centre for Public Health and Tropical Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Lymphatic Filariasis, James Cook University, Townsville 4811, Queensland, Australia

2 Ministry of Health, Funafuti, Tuvalu

3 Health Protection, Hunter New England Population Health, Locked Bag 10, Wallsend 2287, New South Wales, Australia

4 Department of Community Health, School of Medicine, Federal University of Ceará, Fortaleza CE 60430-140, Brazil

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2006, 6:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-110

Published: 12 July 2006



The population of Nukufetau, a remote coral atoll island in Tuvalu in the Western Pacific, received annual mass drug administration (MDA) of diethylcarbamazine and albendazole under the Pacific Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis program in 2001, 2002 and 2003, with the last MDA occurring six months before a cross-sectional survey of the whole population for soil transmitted helminths (STH).


A cross-sectional survey in May 2004 recruited 206 residents (35.2% of the population) who provided a single faecal sample that was preserved, concentrated and examined microscopically.


Overall prevalence of STH was 69.9%; only hookworm and Trichuris trichiura were diagnosed. Trichuris was present in 68.4% with intensity of infection being light in 56.3%, medium in 11.7% and heavy in 0.5%. Hookworm occurred in 11.7% with intensity of infection 11.2% being light and medium in 0.5%. Twenty individuals (9.7%) had dual infections. The prevalence of Trichuris was constant across all ages while the prevalence of hookworm was significantly lower in residents below 30 years of age. In the age group 5–12 years comparison of results with a 2001 survey [1] suggested that the prevalence of STH has declined minimally, due to sustained high prevalence of Trichuris, while hookworm has declined dramatically from 34.4% to 1.6%.


The results of this survey suggest that although the MDA appears to have reduced hookworm prevalence in residents below 30 years of age, there has been minimal effect on Trichuris prevalence. An integrated program to control STH is required.