Background: Globally, hookworms infect 440 million people in developing countries. Especially children and women of childbearing age are at risk of developing anaemia as a result of infection. To control hookworm infection and disease (i.e. reduce the prevalence of medium and heavy infection to <1 %), the World Health Organization has set the target to provide annual or semi-annual preventive chemotherapy (PC) with albendazole (ALB) or mebendazole (MEB) to at least 75 % of all children and women of childbearing age in endemic areas by 2020. Here, we predict the feasibility of achieving <1 % prevalence of medium and heavy infection, based on simulations with an individual-based model. Methods: We developed WORMSIM, a new generalized individual-based modelling framework for transmission and control of helminths, and quantified it for hookworm transmission based on published data. We simulated the impact of standard and more intense PC strategies on trends in hookworm infection, and explored the potential additional impact of interventions that improve access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). The individual-based framework allowed us to take account of inter-individual heterogeneities in exposure and contribution to transmission of infection, as well as in participation in successive PC rounds. Results: We predict that in low and medium endemic areas, current PC strategies (including targeting of WCBA) will achieve control of hookworm infection (i.e. the parasitological target) within 2 years. In highly endemic areas, control can be achieved with semi-annual PC with ALB at 90 % coverage, combined with interventions that reduce host contributions to the environmental reservoir of infection by 50 %. More intense PC strategies (high frequency and coverage) can help speed up control of hookworm infection, and may be necessary in some extremely highly endemic settings, but are not a panacea against systematic non-participation to PC. Conclusions: Control of hookworm infection by 2020 is feasible with current PC strategies (including targeting of WCBA). In highly endemic areas, PC should be combined with health education and/or WASH interventions.

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Parasites and Vectors
Department of Public Health

Coffeng, L., Bakker, R., Montresor, A., & de Vlas, S. (2015). Feasibility of controlling hookworm infection through preventive chemotherapy: a simulation study using the individual-based WORMSIM modelling framework. Parasites and Vectors, 8(1). doi:10.1186/s13071-015-1151-4