Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nutritional status, intestinal parasite infection and allergy among school children in Northwest Ethiopia

Bemnet Amare1*, Jemal Ali2, Beyene Moges2, Gizachew Yismaw2, Yeshambel Belyhun2, Simon Gebretsadik2, Desalegn Woldeyohannes2, Ketema Tafess2, Ebba Abate2, Mengistu Endris2, Desalegn Tegabu3, Andargachew Mulu2, Fusao Ota4, Bereket Fantahun3 and Afework Kassu2

Author Affiliations

1 Collage of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia

2 Collage of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Microbiology Immunology and Parasitology, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia

3 Collage of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia

4 Seto Medical Check Clinic, Takamatsu, Japan

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BMC Pediatrics 2013, 13:7  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-7

Published: 12 January 2013



Parasitic infections have been shown to have deleterious effects on host nutritional status. In addition, although helmintic infection can modulate the host inflammatory response directed against the parasite, a causal association between helminths and allergy remains uncertain. The present study was therefore designed to evaluate the relationship between nutritional status, parasite infection and prevalence of allergy among school children.


A cross sectional study was performed involving school children in two elementary schools in Gondar, Ethiopia. Nutritional status of these children was determined using anthropometric parameters (weight-for-age, height-for-age and BMI-for-age). Epi-Info software was used to calculate z-scores. Stool samples were examined using standard parasitological procedures. The serum IgE levels were quantified by total IgE ELISA kit following the manufacturer’s instruction.


A total of 405 children (with mean age of 12.09.1 ± 2.54 years) completed a self-administered allergy questionnaire and provided stool samples for analysis. Overall prevalence of underweight, stunting and thinness/wasting was 15.1%, 25.2%, 8.9%, respectively. Of the total, 22.7% were found to be positive for intestinal parasites. The most prevalent intestinal parasite detected was Ascaris lumbricoides (31/405, 7.6%). There was no statistically significant association between prevalence of malnutrition and the prevalence of parasitic infections. Median total serum IgE level was 344 IU/ml (IQR 117–2076, n = 80) and 610 IU/ml (143–1833, n = 20), respectively, in children without and with intestinal parasite infection (Z = −0.198, P > 0.8). The prevalence of self reported allergy among the subset was 8%. IgE concentration was not associated either with the presence of parasitic infection or history of allergy.


The prevalence of malnutrition, intestinal parasitism and allergy was not negligible in this population. In addition, there was no significant association between the prevalence of allergy and their nutritional status, and parasite infection. Further research prospective observational and intervention studies are required to address the question of causality between nutritional factors, parasites, and allergy.

Nutritional status; Parasite infection; Allergy; Ethiopia