Background: Infection with common childhood infectious diseases including geohelminth infections may provide protection against the development of atopy and allergic disease. Few studies have investigated risk factors for atopy among children living in rural areas of Latin America.
Objective: To identify risk factors associated with atopy among school-age children in a rural area of Latin America.
Methods: Analytic cross-sectional study of school-age children conducted in seven rural schools in Pichincha Province in Ecuador. Detailed risk factor information was obtained by questionnaire, stool samples were collected for identification of geohelminth parasites, and Mantoux testing was performed to determine tuberculin sensitization.
Results: A total of 1002 children from seven rural schools were recruited. The prevalence of geohelminth infections was high (70.1% were infected with at least one geohelminth parasite) and the prevalence of allergic sensitization was high (20.0% had evidence of aeroallergen sensitization). Factors associated with significant protection against atopy in multivariate analyses were the presence of overcrowding in the child's home, low socio-economic level, and infection with geohelminth parasites, and the protective effects of the three factors were statistically independent.
Conclusion: Low socio-economic level, overcrowding and geohelminth infection, are independently protective against atopy among school-age children living in a rural area of Latin America.