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Acta Trop. 2003 May;86(2-3):315-33.

Could control of soil-transmitted helminthic infection influence the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

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Amoebiasis Research Unit, Infection and Immunity Programme, South African Medical Research Council, PO Box 19070, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa.


In May 2001, the World Health Assembly (WHA) estimated that two billion people were infected by soil-transmitted helminths (S-THs) and schistosomiasis, worldwide. The WHA urged member states to recognise that there can be synergy between public health control programmes for S-THs, schistosomiasis and other diseases. This is particularly relevant to the new dimension created by the HIV/AIDS epidemics in the same impoverished communities and countries where helminthiasis is hyperendemic. Immunological adaptation between humans and parasitic helminths has developed during evolution. Review of 109 research papers, 76% (83/109) of which, were published between 1995 and February 2002, revealed increasing evidence that this relationship may have created an opportunity for more rapid infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as quicker progression to AIDS. Moreover, the efficacy of some vaccines against HIV is likely to be impaired by chronic helminthiasis. For this, there is strong, indirect evidence. There is an urgent need for parasitologists, epidemiologists, immunologists and virologists to undertake comprehensive, transdisciplinary research. On the other hand, there is no current evidence that immunosuppression by HIV facilitates helminthic infection. The situation in regard to strongyloidiasis, however, is not yet clear.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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