Background: Gestational helminth infections are correlated to adverse outcomes including maternal anaemia; as such, treatment is recommended. However, little published high-quality data exist around the efficacy, safety and tolerability of anti-helminthics in pregnancy. We therefore conducted a systematic review and synthesized the available data on maternal outcomes following gestational treatment of intestinal nematodes to help guide clinical decision-making.
Methods: Five electronic databases were searched for studies reporting the efficacy, safety or tolerability of anti-helminthic drugs for gestational treatment of intestinal nematodes. Studies were systematically screened followed by data extraction. Trial quality was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. We conducted a narrative synthesis followed by meta-analyses using random effects models as appropriate. Data were summarized using qualitative and quantitative measures for specific parasitic infections as well as efficacy and safety of anti-parasitic agents. Outcomes of interest included maternal anaemia, minor adverse outcomes, pregnancy loss, pre-mature delivery, prevalence of infection and cure rate.
Results: Twenty-three studies were included. Gestational treatment with albendazole had cure rates up to 90% for hookworm and Ascaris, but only 50% for Trichuris. Mebendazole had an overall cure rate of ≤ 70% for Ascaris, hookworm and Trichuris. Pooled relative risk reduction of hookworm prevalence at delivery with albendazole compared to placebo was 90% (95% confidence interval, 0.09-0.15; n = 2; I2 = 0%). Rate of pregnancy loss and haemoglobin concentration did not differ between albendazole or mebendazole vs placebo, and rates of pre-term delivery were similar in albendazole-treated pregnant women vs controls. Ivermectin demonstrated a cure rate of 29% for hookworm and 56% for Trichuris in pregnant women. No serious adverse events were attributable to any drug studied.
Conclusions: With increased international travel and migration of vulnerable populations, practitioners will encounter nematode infections in pregnant patients. Our analysis supports that albendazole in pregnancy has high cure rates for soil-transmitted helminths and is safe for the mother.
Keywords: Ascaris; Enterobius; Strongyloides; Trichuris; Albendazole; hookworm; ivermectin; mebendazole; pregnancy; soil transmitted helminth.
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