Intestinal worms are more common in Nigerian children attending government- owned schools than those attending private school, and the water supply and sanitation are worse in the government schools, according to a new study published January 30 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Dr Uwem Friday Ekpo (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria) and colleagues surveyed children at three schools in the Ikenne Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria. The prevalence of intestinal worms (helminth infections) was 54.9% in the urban government school, 63.5% in the rural government school, and 28.4% in the private school. The most common worm was roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), followed by whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), tapeworm (Taenia species), and hookworm.

Given that these infections are related to poor sanitation and lack of clean water, the researchers assessed the water supply, presence of garbage around school compounds, conditions of latrines, and presence of soap in classrooms at the three schools. The water and sanitary conditions were poorer in government-owned schools than in the private school. The water supply was inadequate in both government-owned schools: tap water was irregular, and pupils brought bottles of water to school from their homes. In contrast, at the private school the water supply was regular, from a borehole, and pupils drank water using personal cups from the containers in their classes.

"The study shows clearly that the burden of parasitic infections in schoolchildren and poor sanitary conditions of the urban and rural schools owned by the government constitute a public health priority," say the authors. "It strongly supports the need for school health programmes aimed at reducing the prevalence of helminth infections in schoolchildren and improving the sanitation conditions in and around the schools."

Helminthiasis and Hygiene Conditions of Schools in Ikenne, Ogun State, Nigeria.
Ekpo UF, Odoemene SN, Mafiana CF, Sam-Wobo SO
PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2(1): e146. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000146
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