Trichuriasis is a common intestinal worm infection in Africa and in other parts of the World, affecting almost 800 million people. Trichuris is the nematode worm that causes the condition and is usually transmitted by faecal contamination of soil or food. Heavier infestation can lead to pain and a range of health impacts that can seriously diminish quality of life and which may contribute to premature death, particularly in children.
The World Health Organisation describes trichuriasis as one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases - diseases that thrive in conditions of poverty. Unsafe water, lack of access to health services, inadequate housing, malnutrition and poor sanitation all increase vulnerability to infection by this and other diseases such as leprosy, dengue and schistosomiasis.
It is not uncommon for people to suffer from both trichuriasis and from schistosomiasis, another condition caused by a parasite, and these may be treated by the same drugs. Research on the disease leads to better understanding and more effective treatment.
Dr Stefanie Knopp undertook her PhD research on treatment of trichuriasis at the University of Basel in collaboration with Dr David Rollinson and Dr Russell Stothard in the Museum's Department of Zoology, who are specialists in schistosomiasis. She has recently published important research from her PhD in Clinical Infectious Diseases (a high-profile journal with an impact factor of 8.3) in a paper on on the treatment of trichuriasis in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Single doses of the drugs albendazole and mebendazole had in the past shown limited effectiveness in the treatment of trichuriasis. The combination of albendazole with ivermectin was known to improve treatment, but a mebendazole–ivermectin combination had not been previously investigated.
The research showed that addition of ivermectin improves the therapeutic outcomes of both albendazole and mebendazole against Trichuris trichiura, and may be considered for use in soil-transmitted helminth control programs and individual patient management.
Knopp S, Mohammed K A, Speich B, Hattendorf J, Khamis I S, Khamis A N, Stothard, J R, Rollinson D, Marti H and Utzinger, J (2010) Albendazole and Mebendazole Administered Alone or in Combination with Ivermectin against Trichuris trichiura: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Clin Infect Dis. 51 (12): 1420-1428. doi: 10.1086/657310