Background: Intestinal parasitic infections (IPIs) and anaemia are major health problems. This study assessed the prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections, anaemia and associated factors among pre-school children in rural areas of the Tigray region, northern Ethiopia.
Methods: A community based cross-sectional study was conducted among 610 pre-school children in rural communities of Northern Ethiopia from June 2017 to August 2017. Stool specimens were examined for the presence of trophozoites, cysts, oocysts, and ova using direct, formal-ethyl acetate concentration, Kato-Katz, and Ziehl-Neelsen techniques. Haemoglobin was measured using a HemoCue spectrometer.
Results: Among the 610 participating pre-school children in the study, the prevalence of IPIs and anaemia were 58% (95% conference interval (CI): 54.1-61.9%) and 21.6% (95% CI: 18.5-25.1%), respectively. Single, double, and triple parasitic infections were seen in 249 (41, 95% CI: 37-45%), 83 (14, 95% CI: 11-17%), and 22 (3.6, 95% CI: 2.4-5.4%) children, respectively. Of the seven intestinal parasitic organisms recorded from the participants, Entamoeba histolytica/dispar was the most prevalent 220 (36.1%) followed by Giardia lamblia 128 (20.1%), and Hymenolepis nana 102 (16.7%). Mixed infections were common among G. lamblia, E. histolytica/dispar and Cryptosporidium spp. oocyst. Intestinal parasitic infection prevalence increased from 47% in children aged 6-11 months to 66% in those aged 48-59 months; the prevalence ratio (PR) associated with a one-year increase in age was 1.08 (95% CI: 1.02-1.14, p = 0.009). Age-adjusted prevalence was higher in children who had been dewormed (PR = 1.2; 95% CI: 1.00-1.4, p = 0.045), and lower in households having two or more children aged under five (PR = 0.76, 95% CI: 0.61-0.95, p = 0.015). Anaemia rose from 28% in children aged 6-11 months to 43% in those aged 12-23 months, then fell continuously with age, reaching 7% in those aged 48-59 months. Age adjusted, anaemia was more prevalent in households using proper disposal of solid waste (PR = 1.5, 95% CI: 0.1-2.10, p = 0.009) while eating raw meat (PR = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.45-0.54, p = 0.000), any maternal education (PR = 0.64 95% CI: 0.52-0.79, p = 0.000), and household water treatment (PR = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.56-1.0, p = 0.044) were associated with lower prevalence of anaemia.
Conclusions: More than half of the children were infected with intestinal parasites, while anaemia prevalence was concentrated in the 12-23 month age group. This study has identified a number of potentially modifiable risk factors to address the significant prevalence of IPIs and anaemia in these children. Improvements in sanitation, clean water, hand hygiene, maternal education could address both short and long-term consequences of these conditions in this vulnerable population.
Keywords: Anaemia; Intestinal parasitic infections; Pre-school age children; Risk factors, Ethiopia.