Preventive chemotherapy (PC), the large-scale distribution of anthelminthic drugs to population groups at risk, is the core intervention recommended by the WHO for reducing morbidity and transmission of the four main helminth infections, namely lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. The strategy is widely implemented worldwide but its general theoretical foundations have not been described so far in a comprehensive and cohesive manner. Starting from the information available on the biological and epidemiological characteristics of helminth infections, as well as from the experience generated by disease control and elimination interventions across the world, we extrapolate the fundamentals and synthesise the principles that regulate PC and justify its implementation as a sound and essential public health intervention. The outline of the theoretical aspects of PC contributes to a thorough understanding of the different facets of this strategy and helps comprehend opportunities and limits of control and elimination interventions directed against helminth infections.
Copyright © 2011 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.