Association of low birth weight and polyparasitic infection during pregnancy in Lambaréné, Gabon

Trop Med Int Health. 2021 Aug;26(8):973-981. doi: 10.1111/tmi.13591. Epub 2021 May 4.


Objective: To report the prevalence of polyparasitism during pregnancy in the Lambaréné region of Gabon and its association with newborn birth weight.

Method: Pregnant women in their third trimester were recruited in a prospective study between November 2011 and March 2015. Parasite infection status was assessed microscopically in stool, urine and blood samples. Maternal demographic and obstetrical characteristics and newborns anthropometric data were collected. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between low birth weight and polyparasitism.

Results: 678 of 927 pregnant women were included for analysis with mean age (SD) of 25 (6.8) years. The analysis showed that 69% (468/678) were infected with at least one parasite (Plasmodium spp., Schistosoma spp., soil-transmitted helminths, filarial infections). This comprised of 38% with monoparasitism and 31% polyparasitism. The proportion of newborn babies with a weight below 2500 g (LBW) in our study was 21% (142/678). Compared to pregnant women without infection, women with monoparasitic infection had adjusted Odds Ratio confidence interval 95% CI (aOR [95%CI]) of 1.6 [0.95-2.73], those with two parasites had aOR 95%CI of 2.63 [1.51-4.62], and those with more than two parasites had aOR of 5.08 [2.5-10.38] for delivering a newborn with low birth weight.

Conclusion: In Lambaréné, an endemic area for multiple parasite infections, there is a high prevalence of polyparasitism in pregnant women. Polyparasitism is associated with low birth weight. Therefore, there is an urgent need for active screening and treatment of parasite infections in pregnant women to assess the potential public health benefit of such interventions.

Keywords: Lambaréné; low birth weight; polyparasitism; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Female
  • Gabon / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parasitic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / etiology
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Young Adult