Effects of maternal worm infections and anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy on infant motor and neurocognitive functioning

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2012 Nov;18(6):1019-30. doi: 10.1017/S1355617712000768.


We tested the hypothesis that maternal worm infections in pregnancy affect infant motor and neurocognitive development, and that anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy can reverse these effects. We used measures which examine infant motor, cognitive and executive function, including inhibition. We assessed 983 Ugandan infants aged 15 months, using locally appropriate measures within the Entebbe Mother and Baby Study, a trial of anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy. Key exposures were maternal worm infections and anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy. Effects of other health and social factors were controlled for statistically. Of the five major worm species found in the pregnant women, two had influences on the developmental measures: Maternal Mansonella perstans and Strongyloides stercoralis infections showed negative associations with the A-not B-task, and Language, respectively. Performance on other psychomotor and cognitive measures was associated with illnesses during infancy and infants' behavior during assessment, but not with maternal worm infections. There were no positive effects of maternal anthelminthic treatment on infant abilities. Mansonella perstans and Strongyloides stercoralis infection during pregnancy seem associated with impaired early executive function and language, respectively, but single-dose anthelminthic treatment during pregnancy was not beneficial. The biological mechanisms that could underlie these neurocognitive effects are discussed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthelmintics / adverse effects*
  • Antiparasitic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Child Development / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Parasitic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult


  • Anthelmintics
  • Antiparasitic Agents