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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2009 Jan;80(1):36-43.

Geophagy (Soil-eating) in relation to Anemia and Helminth infection among HIV-infected pregnant women in Tanzania.

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Geophagy, the regular and deliberate consumption of soil, is prevalent among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. We examined the associations of geophagy with anemia and helminth infection among 971 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive pregnant women in Tanzania. About 29% of pregnant women regularly consumed soil. Occupation, marital status, and gestational age were associated with geophagy. Ascaris lumbricoides infection was associated with the prevalence of geophagy (adjusted-prevalence ratio 1.81; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.37-2.40); however, hookworm, Trichuris trichiura, and Strongyloides stercoralis showed no association. Anemia and red blood cell characteristics suggestive of iron deficiency were strongly correlated with geophagy at baseline. In longitudinal analyses, we found evidence suggesting that soil consumption may be associated with an increased risk of anemia (adjusted-relative risk 1.16; 95% CI = 0.98-1.36) and a lower hemoglobin concentration (adjusted-mean difference -3.8 g/L; 95% CI [-7.3, -0.4]). Pregnant women should be informed about the potential risks associated with soil consumption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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