Hookworm and Poverty


  • Peter Hotez

    1. Sabin Vaccine Institute, Washington, DC, USA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
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Address for correspondence: Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Ross Hall 736, 2300 I St., NW, Washington DC, 20037. Voice: 202-994-3532; fax: 202-994-2913.
 photez@gwu.edu, peter.hotez@sabin.org
 Scientific Approaches to Understanding and Reducing Poverty
 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences


Human hookworm infection is the leading cause of anemia and undernutrition and the second most important parasitic infection of humans. Hookworm occurs almost exclusively in the setting of rural poverty in the developing countries of the tropics. The rural dependency reflects the precise soil and temperature requirements of the environmental life history stages of the parasite, whereas the relationship between hookworm and poverty is based on multiple factors, including inadequate sanitation, the absence of concrete floors in home dwellings, and lack of access to essential medicines. Also, hookworm not only occurs in the setting of poverty but also promotes poverty because of its health and educational effects in children, its adverse effect on pregnancy outcome, and its effect on worker productivity. Since the middle of the 20th century, poverty reduction and urbanization have successfully reduced the prevalence of hookworm in the world's industrialized nations and some middle-income countries. However, the control of hookworm in low-income countries still relies heavily on the frequent and periodic use of anthelminthic drugs either through deworming programs targeting school-aged children or through integrated control programs that simultaneously target the seven neglected tropical diseases, including hookworm. However, the high rates of hookworm reinfection and the possible emergence of drug resistance will ultimately require the development of new control tools—including the Human Hookworm Vaccine, one of several so-called antipoverty vaccines that could undergo development and testing over the next decade.