Encouraging new data from the wider distribution of anti-parasite drugs in pregnant women and very young children demonstrates that medicines commonly used to treat parasitic infections have much wider benefits than was previously thought. The data was presented during a two-day meeting in
Anti-parasite drugs have long been used to treat school-age children in campaigns worldwide to improve health and educational outcomes. Intestinal worms can cause malnutrition, fatigue, organ damage, and in severe cases, cancer of the bladder. Anti-parasite drugs kill worms in the human body, as well as helping to prevent anemia, and to maximize cognitive and physical development.
Due to safety concerns, the drugs were not widely recommended for young children or for pregnant women until 2002, when a WHO expert committee recommended that pregnant women and children from 12 months to five years old be included in all worm control strategies.
During the meeting,
In a study in
"We are overwhelmed by this evidence," says Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, coordinator of WHO's parasite control program. "We knew that there would be benefits from expanding deworming treatment, but we never imagined the impact would exceed even our most optimistic expectations."
With the new evidence illustrating that anti-parasite drugs have a range of positive impacts on young children and pregnant women, WHO recommends that treatment programs worldwide should reach the many people who need them. "This is an opportunity to improve public health on a global level that must not be missed," says Dr. Hiroyoshi Endo, director of control, prevention and eradication of communicable diseases.