Background: This study prospectively assessed the occurrence of clinical and subclinical schistosomiasis, strongyloidiasis, filariasis, and toxocariasis, and the screening value of eosinophilia in adult short-term travelers to helminth-endemic countries.
Methods: Visitors of a pre-travel health advice centre donated blood samples for serology and blood cell count before and after travel. Samples were tested for eosinophilia, and for antibodies against schistosomiasis, strongyloidiasis, filariasis, and toxocariasis. Previous infection was defined as seropositivity in pre- and post-travel samples. Recent infection was defined as a seroconversion. Symptoms of parasitic disease were recorded in a structured diary.
Results: Previous infection was found in 112 of 1207 subjects: schistosomiasis in 2.7%, strongyloidiasis in 2.4%, filariasis in 3.4%, and toxocariasis in 1.8%. Recent schistosomiasis was found in 0.51% of susceptible subjects at risk, strongyloidiasis in 0.25%, filariasis in 0.09%, and toxocariasis in 0.08%. The incidence rate per 1000 person-months was 6.4, 3.2, 1.1, and 1.1, respectively. Recent infections were largely contracted in Asia. The positive predictive value of eosinophilia for diagnosis was 15% for previous infection and 0% for recent infection. None of the symptoms studied had any positive predictive value.
Conclusion: The chance of infection with schistosomiasis, strongyloidiasis, filariasis, and toxocariasis during one short-term journey to an endemic area is low. However, previous stay leads to a cumulative risk of infection. Testing for eosinophilia appeared to be of no value in routine screening of asymptomatic travelers for the four helminthic infections. Findings need to be replicated in larger prospective studies.