The flagellate protozoan parasite, Giardia intestinalis, is widely distributed throughout the world with a high prevalence in developing countries in the tropics and subtropics, including Malaysia. Approximately 200 million people are infected with the parasite globally, with 500,000 new cases reported annually. This cross-sectional study was conducted among three tribes of Orang Asli communities in Selangor, Perak and Pahang states of Malaysia. The main objective was to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for giardiasis. Stool samples were collected from 500 individuals aged between 2 and 74 years (males=219, females=281). The samples were examined with formalin-ether sedimentation and trichrome staining techniques. Socioeconomic data were collected through a pre-tested questionnaire. The overall prevalence of giardiasis was 20.0% with the highest prevalence in the Proto-Malays (33.3%) followed by Negritos (20.1%) and Senois (10.4%). The positive cases showed a decrease with increasing age and most of the positive cases were observed in individuals less than 24 years old. Males had significantly higher prevalence than females (χ(2)=5.283, P=0.022). Logistic regression analysis of the overall population studied and the Senoi tribe confirmed that being a child aged less than 15 years, being male, the consumption of raw vegetables and the presence of other family members infected with G. intestinalis were the main risk factors for giardiasis. The presence of other family members infected with G. intestinalis was the only risk factor highlighted in the Proto-Malay and Negrito tribes. Diarrhoea was significantly associated with giardiasis. However, the cause and effect relationship has yet to be determined. Thus, screening family members and treating the infected individuals are the main strategies that should be adopted by the public health authority in combating this infection in Orang Asli communities as well as health education regarding good personal and food hygiene practises.
Copyright © 2012 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.