Decreasing prevalence of Trichuris trichiura (whipworm) in the Northern Territory from 2002 to 2012

Amy L Crowe, Pam Smith, Linda Ward, Bart J Currie and Rob Baird
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (5): 286-289. || doi: 10.5694/mja13.00141


Objective: To observe the prevalence, disease associations, and temporal trends in Trichuris trichiura (whipworm) infection in the Northern Territory between 2002 and 2012.

Design, participants and setting: Retrospective observational analysis of consecutive microbiologically confirmed cases of T. trichiura infection among members of the NT population from whom a faecal sample was obtained for testing by NT Government health care facilities between 1 January 2002 and 31 December 2012.

Main outcome measures: Annual prevalence of T. trichiura infection; age, sex, Indigenous status and place of residence of infected patients; percentage of infected patients with anaemia (haemoglobin level, ≤ 110 g/L) and eosinophilia (eosinophil count, ≥ 0.5 × 109/L).

Results: 417 episodes of T. trichiura infection were identified over the 11 years from 63 668 faecal samples. The median age of patients was 8 years (interquartile range [IQR], 3–36 years). Patients were predominantly Indigenous (95.3%; P = 0.001) and from three main geographical areas (Victoria Daly, East Arnhem Land and West Arnhem Land). Infections were associated with anaemia (40.2%) and eosinophilia (51.6%). There was a downward trend in the prevalence of T. trichiura infection diagnosed at NT Government health care facilities, from 123.1 cases (95% CI, 94.8–151.3 cases) per 100 000 Indigenous population in 2002 to 35.8 cases (95% CI, 21.8–49.9 cases) per 100 000 Indigenous population in 2011.

Conclusions: T. trichiura is the most frequently identified soil-transmitted helminth infecting patients in NT Government health care facilities. Cases are identified predominantly in Indigenous patients in remote communities. We have observed a declining prevalence of whipworm infection in the NT.

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  • Amy L Crowe1
  • Pam Smith1
  • Linda Ward2
  • Bart J Currie2
  • Rob Baird1

  • 1 Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, NT.
  • 2 Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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