Effects of Ascaris Infection on Human Nutrition

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  • Departments of Medicine and Microbiology (Parasitology Section), School of Medicine, Universidad del Valle, International Center for Medical Research and Training, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, Cali, Colombia

The role of Ascaris lumbricoides infection in human nutrition was investigated in 12 children 5 to 10 years of age. Daily levels of dietary protein intake varied from 1 to 2.8 g per kg of body weight but were kept constant for each child, as was caloric intake. Nitrogen, fat balance, and d-xylose absorption determinations were done before and after deworming. A mean reduction in fecal nitrogen excretion of 230 mg per day was noted after removal of worms. In 7 children harboring 48 or more parasties, the reduction in fecal nitrogen amounted to 7.2% of the dietary nitrogen. In 3 children receiving 1 g of protein per kg body weight, the improved nitrogen absorpiton after deworming led to an increased nitrogen retention. In 8 children the infection was associated with moderate steatorrhea (13.4% of dietary fat) and impairment of d-xylose absorption; the former was markedly reduced, and the latter partially improved following treatment. It is concluded that Ascaris infection in children can lead to marked nutritional impairment when a high parasite load is associated with a low protein intake.

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