Advances in Life Science and Medicine
Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Pages 01-23
The Effects of Helminth Infections on Child Physical and Cognitive Development: An Integrated Pathophysiological and Socioeconomic Approach
Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and hookworm make up the three most prevalent helminth species in humans. Helminths infect on average 1.8 billion people internationally with the vast majority being children under the age of 18. Being parasitic worms, these helminths feed off the child’s body, absorbing nutrients from the gastro-intestinal tract and from blood vessels. This leaves a child malnourished and anaemic especially in lower socioeconomic communities where access to a nutritious and varied diet is neither readily available nor accessible. This paper examined the relationship between the socioeconomic and pathophysiological impacts of helminth infections on a child’s physical and cognitive developments. It looked at the role that poverty and malnutrition played in the onset of cognitive and physical developmental delays. It also discussed the role of parasitic infection intensity on the severity of the poor growth outcomes. A causal loop diagram was used to demonstrate the intricate relationship between STH infection, poor sanitation, negative growth outcomes and the vicious cycle of reinfection. The paper demonstrated a vast consensus of sources are in agreement that soil transmitted helminths are a driven by poor sanitation and hygiene, often a result of poor socioeconomic standings, and have major impacts on a child’s physiological and cognitive growth. This paper concluded because of the socioeconomic drivers, the pathophysiological impacts of helminth infections are far greater on children from low socioeconomic backgrounds than on children from upper socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, it concluded that if any intervention is to be successful in reducing the prevalence and intensity of these infections, sanitation, hygiene and health education concerns need to be addressed in order to effectively disrupt the vicious reinfection cycle.
Keywords: Helminth infections; pathophysiology; socioeconomic