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Keywords:

  • Ascaris;
  • Trichuris and hookworm infections;
  • deworming;
  • iron supplementation;
  • tea pluckers;
  • labour productivity

We conducted a randomized clinical intervention trial over 24 weeks on a tea estate in north-east Bangladesh to investigate the effect of iron supplementation and anthelmintic treatment on the labour productivity of adult female tea pluckers. A total of 553 full-time tea pluckers, not pregnant and not breastfeeding, were randomly assigned to one of the four intervention groups: group 1 received iron supplementation on a weekly basis, group 2 received anthelmintic treatment at the beginning and half-way through the trial (week 12), group 3 received both iron supplementation as group 1 and anthelmintic treatment as group 2, and group 4 was a control group and received placebos. No significant difference in labour productivity was found between the four intervention groups over the trial period. However, there was a negative association for all three worms (Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and hookworms) between the intensity of helminth infections (eggs/g faeces) and all measures of labour productivity. Lower haemoglobin values and anaemia (< 120 g/l Hb) were both associated with lower labour productivity and more days sick and absent. Taller women with greater arm circumference were able to pluck more green leaves, earn higher wages and were absent less often.