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Keywords:

  • Necator americanus;
  • hookworm;
  • soil type;
  • climate;
  • distribution

Summary

We investigated environmental factors influencing the distribution of hookworm infection in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Prevalence data were sourced from previous studies and additional surveys carried out to supplement the database. When geo-referenced the data revealed that higher prevalences are limited to areas below 150 m above sea level, and low prevalences to areas above this altitude. Using univariate analysis we investigated the differences in environmental factors in the two areas. The relationship between hookworm prevalence, altitude and climate-derived variables was assessed using Pearson correlation coefficient, and that of soil type using the t-test. Multivariate analysis was used to determine environmental factors that combine best to provide favourable conditions for hookworm distribution. The results revealed that areas ≤150 m above sea level, i.e. the coastal plain, supported high prevalences (x̄ = 45, n = 51), and were characterized by sandy soils with a clay content of less than 15%, warm temperatures and relatively high rainfall. Areas >150 m above sea level, i.e. inland, supported low mean hookworm prevalences (x̄ = 6, n = 21), and were characterized by soils with a clay content of more than 45%, variable temperatures and moderate rainfall. Hookworm prevalence also decreased southwards as temperatures became slightly cooler, rainfall remained more-or-less constant and the coastal plain narrowed. In the multivariate model prevalence was most significantly correlated with the mean daily minimum temperature for January followed by the mean number of rainy days for January. This indicates the importance of summer conditions in the transmission of hookworm infection in KwaZulu-Natal and suggests that transmission may be seasonal.