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Screening for intestinal parasites in recently arrived children from East Africa


Dr J Carapetis, University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Fax: +61 39345 6000; email:


Background:  Intestinal parasitic carriage is common in East African populations with a wide spectrum of clinical severity. There are scant data on the rates of carriage in East African immigrants to Australia. This study describes the prevalence of and risk factors for intestinal parasite carriage among children recently arrived from East African countries.

Methods:  Children aged 0−17 years, who attended an outpatient clinic, were born in East Africa and had immigrated since 1998 were eligible to participate. A single preserved stool specimen was collected for faecal microscopy, and blood tests were conducted for Strongyloides and Schistosoma serology, full blood examination and serum ferritin.

Results:  One hundred and thirty-five children (median age 8.1 years, range 1.0−17.5) participated, of whom 133 (99%) provided a stool specimen. Parasites were detected in 50% of samples, and 18% of children carried a possibly pathogenic species. No child was symptomatic at diagnosis. Positive or equivocal serology occurred in 11% of children for Strongyloides and 2% for Schistosoma. Anaemia and iron deficiency were detected in 16% of all children. Those carrying an intestinal parasite were older (mean age 9.8 vs 7.4 years, P= 0.002) and less likely to be anaemic (odds ratio 0.37, 95% confidence interval 0.14−0.96) than those who were not carriers.

Conclusions:  Carriage of intestinal parasites is common among children from East Africa. Those carrying pathogenic organisms require treatment and follow up to ensure eradication. The results of this survey support the need for routine assessment of newly arrived immigrants from East Africa for intestinal parasites, anaemia and iron deficiency.