Soil-transmitted helminth reinfection after drug treatment: a systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012;6(5):e1621. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001621. Epub 2012 May 8.


Background: Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections (i.e., Ascaris lumbricoides, hookworm, and Trichuris trichiura) affect more than a billion people. Preventive chemotherapy (i.e., repeated administration of anthelmintic drugs to at-risk populations), is the mainstay of control. This strategy, however, does not prevent reinfection. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess patterns and dynamics of STH reinfection after drug treatment.

Methodology: We systematically searched PubMed, ISI Web of Science, EMBASE, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, WanFang Database, Chinese Scientific Journal Database, and Google Scholar. Information on study year, country, sample size, age of participants, diagnostic method, drug administration strategy, prevalence and intensity of infection pre- and posttreatment, cure and egg reduction rate, evaluation period posttreatment, and adherence was extracted. Pooled risk ratios from random-effects models were used to assess the risk of STH reinfection after treatment. Our protocol is available on PROSPERO, registration number: CRD42011001678.

Principal findings: From 154 studies identified, 51 were included and 24 provided STH infection rates pre- and posttreatment, whereas 42 reported determinants of predisposition to reinfection. At 3, 6, and 12 months posttreatment, A. lumbricoides prevalence reached 26% (95% confidence interval (CI): 16-43%), 68% (95% CI: 60-76%) and 94% (95% CI: 88-100%) of pretreatment levels, respectively. For T. trichiura, respective reinfection prevalence were 36% (95% CI: 28-47%), 67% (95% CI: 42-100%), and 82% (95% CI: 62-100%), and for hookworm, 30% (95% CI: 26-34%), 55% (95% CI: 34-87%), and 57% (95% CI: 49-67%). Prevalence and intensity of reinfection were positively correlated with pretreatment infection status.

Conclusion: STH reinfections occur rapidly after treatment, particularly for A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura. Hence, there is a need for frequent anthelmintic drug administrations to maximize the benefit of preventive chemotherapy. Integrated control approaches emphasizing health education and environmental sanitation are needed to interrupt transmission of STH.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics / administration & dosage*
  • Ascariasis / drug therapy*
  • Drug Therapy / methods
  • Helminthiasis / drug therapy*
  • Hookworm Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Trichuriasis / drug therapy*


  • Anthelmintics