The Problem: Worms
Submitted by grace on Wed, 05/25/2011 - 09:22
Two billion people worldwide are affected by soil-transmitted helminths (STH) and schistosomes, which account for over 40 percent of the worldwide burden of all tropical diseases excluding malaria. STH are small parasitic worms that live in the intestines and deprive their hosts of essential nutrients, leaving them malnourished and tired. Schistosomes live in the urinary and intestinal tracts and can cause organ damage and internal bleeding. While fatalities can occur, the larger concern is the chronic, long-term harm worms cause.
300 million people suffer severe illness, and over half are school-age children. Children are particularly vulnerable to infection so they suffer the highest intensity and therefore experience the greatest morbidity. Worms cause health problems that can lead to impairment of mental and physical development and make children too sick to attend or to concentrate at school. Worms also cause long-term harm to their economic development, and children persistently infected have significantly lower literacy and earnings as adults.
Hundreds of millions of affected children remain untreated each year. It is estimated that fewer than 20% of at-risk children are receiving treatment, which is far below the 75% target set by the World Health Organization.