Background: Limited research has documented an association between soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections and child development. This has recently been identified as an important knowledge gap.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study was conducted in Iquitos, Peru, between September 2011 and July 2016. A cohort of 880 children, recruited at 1 year of age, was followed up to 5 years. STH infection was measured annually and child development was measured with the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence III (WPPSI-III) at 5 years. Linear-regression models were used to investigate the effect of the number of detected STH infections between 1 and 5 years of age on WPPSI-III scores at 5 years of age. Bayesian latent class analysis was used to adjust for exposure misclassification.
Results: A total of 781 (88.8%) children were included in the analysis. In multivariable analysis, adjusted for STH misclassification, increasing numbers of Ascaris, Trichuris, hookworm and any STH infections were associated with lower WPPSI-III scores. Among the largest observed effects were those for the effect of Ascaris infection on verbal IQ scores [difference in IQ (95% CrI) for two, three, and four or five detected infections compared with zero or one infection: -8.27 (-13.85, -3.10), -6.69 (-12.05, -2.05) and -5.06 (-10.75, 0.05), respectively]. Misclassification of STH infection generally led to a bias towards the null.
Conclusions: These results document an association between STH infection and child development. The results highlight the importance of adjusting for STH misclassification; however, future research is needed to accurately determine the sensitivity of STH diagnostic techniques. STH control in preschool children may contribute to lowering the disease burden associated with poor child development.