Population Biology of Hookworms in Children in Rural West Bengal

II. Acquisition and Loss of Hookworms

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  • The Johns Hopkins University, International Center for Medical Research, Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta, India

From changes in hookworm egg counts in feces of children in Gangetic West Bengal we estimate that, on the average, each child lost about 11.1 female hookworms during the 1969 post-monsoon dry period and gained about 10.3 females during the subsequent premonsoon and monsoon seasons, resulting in a net loss of worms over the 22-month study period. However, the mean fecal egg count for each 1-year age group of children from 3–11 years suggests an average net gain of 2.7 female worms/year. From seasonal changes in the relative abundance of larvae recovered from fecal cultures, it is estimated that at least 82% of the yearly gain in Ancylostoma duodenale females is a result of the maturation of hypobiotic (latent) larvae acquired during the previous wet season. A. duodenale was present about equally with Necator americanus but it was significantly more common among males than among females, and more common among Muslims than among Hindus. Using damp gauze pads, we sampled the soil surface around freshly-passed feces for infective hookworm larvae and estimated that 252 larvae were contacted by each child during the transmission season. Efficiency of penetration and maturation of each hookworm species was calculated from estimated larval densities on the soil surface, from seasonal changes in fecal egg counts, and from variations in the number of larvae recovered from fecal cultures by season and age of the host; it is estimated that N. americanus is 17.5% efficient and A. duodenale 5.3%. Children negative for hookworm became positive at all times of the year and at a significantly higher rate in 1970 than in 1969; incidence averaged 4.2% per 2-month period and mean initial fecal egg count suggested infection with about 2.0 female worms. The average life span for N. americanus is calculated to be 3–4 years and that of A. duodenale about 1 year under the conditions of reinfection found in the study area.

Author Notes

Present address: University of California International Center for Medical Research, Institute for Medical Research, Kuala Lumpur 02-14, Malaysia.

Present address: Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3800 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.