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Int J Parasitol. 2007 Aug;37(10):1153-61. Epub 2007 Feb 27.

Familial aggregation of human susceptibility to co- and multiple helminth infections in a population from the Poyang Lake region, China.

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Molecular Parasitology Laboratory, Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health and Nutrition, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, The University of Queensland, Herston, Brisbane, Qld 4029, Australia.


Human helminthiases are common in China, especially in rural areas where sanitation conditions are poor. Co- and multiple infections with helminths are strikingly frequent. A cross-sectional parasitological and questionnaire survey was carried out in a population of 3205 individuals belonging to 498 families from five villages in the Poyang Lake region, Jiangxi Province, China, to assess their helminth infection status and to collect information on risk factors for infection. The prevalences for Ascaris lumbricoides, Schistosoma japonicum and Trichuris trichiura were 30.9%, 15.7% and 47%, respectively. Hookworm infection prevalence was low (0.7%). A significant association was observed between A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura infection, and also between S. japonicum and T. trichiura infection. Variance components analysis was undertaken to investigate the aggregation of S. japonicum and the soil-transmitted helminths, A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura. While A. lumbricoides was found to aggregate only at a household level, T. trichiura was shown to cluster predominantly in families. Both genetic and household effects were found to be important in determining the risk of infection with S. japonicum. Variance components analysis for A. lumbricoides/T. trichiura co-infections indicated a significant domestic environmental effect, attributable for 32.7% of the co-infection risk. Aggregation of S. japonicum/T. trichiura co-infection was also observed at a household level. The risk of infection with multiple helminth species, although mainly environmentally influenced, was also shown to have significant involvement of genetic and household components. The results of this study indicate that a shared household is a major contributing risk factor for helminth co-infections and emphasises the need for increased standards of sanitation and hygiene to prevent parasite transmission. Further, the results suggest that susceptibility to one helminth infection is not completely independent of another, and that there exist common genetic factors underlying infection with multiple helminth species.

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