Background: The effect of geohelminth infection on wheeze and allergen sensitization is inconsistent across different epidemiological studies.
Objective: To investigate the association between self-reported wheeze, self-reported asthma, allergic sensitization and geohelminth infection in urban and rural areas of Butajira, southern Ethiopia.
Methods: Questionnaire data on wheeze, asthma and a range of confounding variables was gathered in a cross-sectional study of 7649 people aged 5 years or more from the Butajira Rural Health Project database. Allergic skin sensitization to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and cockroach was measured, and a stool sample collected for qualitative and quantitative geohelminth analysis.
Results: Wheeze was weakly associated with allergic sensitization to D. pteronyssinus and cockroach (odds ratios (OR) 1.21, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.98-1.51, and 1.27, 95% CI 1.00-1.62, respectively). Self-reported asthma was related to sensitization to D. pteronyssinus only (OR 4.09, 95% CI 2.86-5.84). Geohelminths were present in 33.8% of participants, and the median egg load in infested individuals was 6 eggs/g. Overall, presence of any geohelminths was associated with a diminished risk of cockroach sensitization (adjusted OR 0.82, 95% CI 0.68-0.99) but there were no significant protective effects of any geohelminth infection against wheeze or asthma.
Conclusion: In a developing country community with relatively low geohelminth prevalence and intensity, we found weak association between allergic sensitization and wheeze, but no evidence of a protective effect of geohelminths against wheeze or asthma.