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J Trop Med Hyg. 1992 Apr;95(2):104-13.

Helminthiasis and cultural change in the Peruvian rainforest.

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Institute of Tropical Hygiene and Public Health, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


The objective of this study was to identify the impact of cultural and ecological change on intestinal helminth infections in traditional indigenous communities in the Peruvian rainforest and to identify the ways of transmission of helminth eggs. A remote indigenous settlement was compared with a more developed mestizo town. Stool specimens as well as soil, dust, air and water were examined for Ascaris and Trichuris eggs. A significantly lower infection intensity of Ascaris and Trichuris could be demonstrated for the traditional Indian community. Here the hygienic conditions were found to be better than in the town. The mestizo teacher and his family, who had come from the town to the Indian settlement, showed poorer hygienic standards and higher levels of Ascaris and Trichuris egg excretion than the Indian dwellers. The distribution of Ascaris and Trichuris eggs in the soil, house dust and in the air suggests that the contaminated dust from defaecation sites was distributed through the whole community by feet, animals (chickens) and wind. It was observed that many traditional habits that contributed to the good hygiene of the native population were being abandoned in the process of cultural change.

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