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Mass drug administration for control of parasitic infections

Rojelio Mejia, MD
Section Editor
Edward T Ryan, MD, DTMH
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


Empiric deworming refers to use of anthelmintic drugs to reduce the prevalence of infection due to soil-transmitted helminths in endemic areas. Such reductions in prevalence are generally temporary; mass drug administration interrupts parasite life cycles but does not halt them completely, and the risk for reinfection is high [1,2].

Areas with high prevalence of helminth infection require a number of public health measures beyond preventive treatment, including safe drinking water, basic sanitation, and health education [3].

Issues related to population deworming are discussed here; issues related to the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of individual parasitic infections are discussed separately. (See related topics.)


Infection due to soil-transmitted helminths has been associated with morbidity including delays in growth and cognitive development, particularly among children 2 to 12 years of age [1,4-6]. Population deworming may be effective in reducing the prevalence of infection [7]; the degree of benefit depends on patient characteristics, regional parasite species, and burden of infection.

The data on efficacy for population deworming is mixed; overall, the evidence demonstrates that children with helminth infections have diminished growth rates compared with uninfected children and that population deworming can help mitigate this issue [8-12]. The greatest benefit of deworming appears to be among young children who undergo screening prior to treatment [13].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 06, 2017.
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