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Keywords:

  • Necator americanus;
  • hookworm;
  • sandy soils;
  • clay soils;
  • South Africa

Summary

This study extended the association between hookworm transmission in KwaZulu-Natal and the sandy coastal plain by investigating the parasite's occurrence in isolated areas of sandy soils further inland. A school-based prevalence survey was carried out in selected inland sandy areas and in surrounding areas dominated by clay soils within a narrow altitudinal range of between 500 and 700 m to reduce the effect of altitude on climate-related factors (rainfall and temperature). Sandy areas situated on the coastal plain were included in the analysis for comparative purposes. Soil samples (0–50 mm depth) were collected from each locality to assess their nematode loadings and to analyse selected physical and chemical properties. Significant differences were found between the moderate prevalence of hookworm infection among children living in inland areas with sandy soils (17.3%) and the low prevalence in surrounding non-sandy areas (5.3%, P < 0.001), and between infection among children living in all inland areas (9.3%) and the high prevalence on the coastal plain (62.5%, P < 0.001). Amounts of fine and medium sand were highest in both the coastal plain soils and in inland sandy areas and these fractions showed a significant positive correlation with hookworm prevalence and nematode loadings. Clay, coarse sand and organic matter contents were highest in surrounding non-sandy soils and showed a significant negative correlation with the nematode variables. No statistically significant correlations were found with soil pH at study localities. We conclude that properties of inland sandy soils, particularly particle size distribution, correlate well with hookworm prevalence and nematode loadings and therefore provide a more suitable habitat for nematodes than surrounding non-sandy areas. These results suggest that particle size distribution of sand fractions, organic matter and clay content in the soil influence the survival of hookworm larvae and hence the parasite's transmission.