Stanford University School of Medicine researchers and their colleagues are calling for an urgent re-evaluation of global guidelines for the treatment of parasitic-worm diseases in light of a new study showing that large-scale treatment programs are highly cost-effective. Parasitic-worm diseases afflict some 1.5 billion people in the developing world, causing gastrointestinal problems, anemia, wasting, and cognitive and growth deficits in children, and in some cases, liver, bladder and intestinal problems that can be fatal. About 150,000 people die of complications from these parasitic infections every year. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on treatment of the diseases focus only on school-aged children, as they are heavily affected by these diseases and can be easily treated in a school setting. The current guidelines call for annual or biennial treatment of children in high-prevalence areas. But the latest study, a modeling analysis of four different communities in the Ivory Coast, suggests that more frequent, community-wide treatment programs are far more beneficial, both for children and adults, and are cost-effective. "Most of the money spent on treating these diseases is focused on helping kids. But there are a lot of symptoms of disability in adults as well, and our results support the expansion of treatment to this adult population," said Nathan Lo, a third-year Stanford medical student and research associate. Moreover, treating adults benefits children by reducing the chances they will become re-infected, he said. "If you only treat children, it might help them, but they often come home to neighbors, parents, and teachers who may be infected, and the children can once again become infected," Lo said.
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