The intensity categories, or thresholds, currently used for Trichuris trichiura (ie. epg intensities of 1–999 (light); 1,000–9,999 epg (moderate), and ≥10,000 epg (heavy)) were developed in the 1980s, when there were little epidemiological data available on dose-response relationships. This study was undertaken to determine a threshold for T. trichiura-associated anemia in pregnant women and to describe the implications of this threshold in terms of the need for primary prevention and chemotherapeutic interventions.
In Iquitos, Peru, 935 pregnant women were tested for T. trichiura infection in their second trimester of pregnancy; were given daily iron supplements throughout their pregnancy; and had their blood hemoglobin levels measured in their third trimester of pregnancy. Women in the highest two T. trichiura intensity quintiles (601–1632 epg and ≥1633 epg) had significantly lower mean hemoglobin concentrations than the lowest quintile (0–24 epg). They also had a statistically significantly higher risk of anemia, with adjusted odds ratios of 1.67 (95% CI: 1.02, 2.62) and 1.73 (95% CI: 1.09, 2.74), respectively.
This analysis provides support for categorizing a T. trichiura infection ≥1,000 epg as ‘moderate’, as currently defined by the World Health Organization. Because this ‘moderate’ level of T. trichiura infection was found to be a significant risk factor for anemia in pregnant women, the intensity of Trichuris infection deemed to cause or aggravate anemia should no longer be restricted to the ‘heavy’ intensity category. It should now include both ‘heavy’ and ‘moderate’ intensities of Trichuris infection. Evidence-based deworming strategies targeting pregnant women or populations where anemia is of concern should be updated accordingly.
Infection by the soil-transmitted helminth Trichuris trichiura is defined as ‘light’, ‘moderate’ and ‘heavy’ depending on its intensity. However, these intensity categories were developed in the 1980s, before any epidemiological data were available on the association between specific T. trichiura infection intensities and adverse health outcomes. Here, we re-analyzed data from a study of T. trichiura infection and anemia in pregnant women to determine the threshold (i.e. the lowest infection intensity) associated with an increased risk of anemia. Women with T. trichiura infections of intensities ranging from 601 to 1632 eggs per gram of feces (epg) (ie. a ‘moderate’ level of intensity) had a significantly higher prevalence of anemia and a significantly lower hemoglobin level than the reference group (i.e. women with T. trichiura infections of intensities ranging between 0 and 24 epg). This finding contrasts with the common belief that only ‘heavy’ T. trichiura infection (10,000 epg and above) can cause anemia.