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Hookworm in the Northern Territory: down but not out

Jane Davies*, Suman S Majumdar*, Robert T M Forbes, Pam Smith, Bart J Currie and Robert W Baird
Med J Aust 2013; 198 (5): 278-281. || doi: 10.5694/mja12.11615

Summary

Objectives: To determine the prevalence and trends of human hookworm infection (HWI) in the Northern Territory over the past 10 years, and to assess the influence of the community children’s deworming program (CCDP).

Design, patients and setting: A retrospective observational analysis of consecutive microbiologically confirmed cases of HWI in patients diagnosed at NT government health care facilities and the main private laboratory servicing the NT between January 2002 and July 2012.

Main outcome measures: Annual prevalence of HWI (2002–2011); age, sex, Indigenous status, residence, haemoglobin level and eosinophil count of patients with HWI; and proportion of patients within the CCDP target population (children aged 6 months to 16 years, who should receive 6-monthly albendazole).

Results: From 64 691 faecal samples examined during the study period, hookworm was detected in 112 patients. There was a downward trend in the annual prevalence of HWI, falling from 14.0 cases per 100 000 population (95% CI, 8.8–19.2) in 2002 to 2.2 per 100 000 population (95% CI, 0.3–4.1) in 2011. Only 16 patients (14.3%) fell within the CCDP target population. Seventy-one patients (63.4%) were living in remote communities, and 94 (84.7%) were recorded as Indigenous Australians.

Conclusions: The prevalence of HWI in the NT reduced over the 10-year period. HWI predominantly occurs in individuals outside the CCDP target population. Our data support continuation of the CCDP in conjunction with improvements in housing, health hardware and health promotion. Continued use of albendazole in individuals beyond the CCDP may facilitate the eventual eradication of HWI from the NT.

  • Jane Davies*1
  • Suman S Majumdar*2
  • Robert T M Forbes2
  • Pam Smith2
  • Bart J Currie1,2
  • Robert W Baird2

  • 1 Division of Global and Tropical Health, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT.
  • 2 Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, NT.

Correspondence: Rob.Baird@nt.gov.au

Acknowledgements: 

We thank Linda Ward and Matthew Stevens (Menzies School of Health Research) for expert statistical advice.

* Joint first authors

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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