OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the impact of periodic selective treatment with 500 mg mebendazole on soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections in Cuban schoolchildren.
METHODS: We followed up a cohort of 268 STH-positive schoolchildren, aged 5-14 years at baseline, at six-month intervals for two years and a final follow-up after three years. Kato-Katz stool examination was used to detect infections with Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and hookworm. Common risk factors related to STHs were assessed by parental questionnaire.
RESULTS: A significant reduction in the number of STH infections was obtained after three years with the highest reduction for T. trichiura (87.8%) and the lowest for hookworm (57.9%). After six months, cure rates (CRs) were 76.9% for A. lumbricoides, 67.4% for T. trichiura and 44.4% for hookworm. After two treatment rounds, more than 75% of all STH-positive children at baseline were cured, but with important differences between STH species (95.2% for A. lumbricoides, 80.5% for T. trichiura and 76.5% for hookworm). At the end of the study, these cumulative CRs were almost 100% for all three STHs. Risk factors for STHs were sex, sanitary disposal and habit of playing in the soil.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that periodic selective treatment with 500 mg mebendazole is effective in reducing the number of STH infections in Cuban schoolchildren. Although important differences were found between helminth species, two rounds of treatment appeared sufficient to obtain substantial reductions.