Helminth infections and micronutrients in school-age children: a systematic review and meta-analysis

B. de Gier, M. Campos Ponce, M. van de Bor, C.M. Doak, K. Polman

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Helminth infections and micronutrient deficiencies are highly prevalent in developing countries. Neither condition typically causes overt disease, but they do lead to indirect morbidity such as impaired physical and cognitive development. Objective: We aimed to systematically review current evidence on the relation of helminth infections with micronutrient status in school-age children worldwide. Design: We included both observational studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We applied a random-effects meta-analysis to estimate 1) cross-sectional associations between helminths and micronutrient status, 2) effects of anthelminthic treatment on micronutrient status, and 3) effects of micronutrient supplementation on helminth infection and reinfection. Results: Meta-analyses of observational studies showed an association between helminth infections and serum retinol [standardized mean difference (SMD): 20.30; 95% CI: 20.48, 20.13] but not serum ferritin (SMD: 0.00; 95% CI: 20.7, 0.7). Conversely, metaanalyses of anthelminthic treatment RCTs showed a positive effect on ferritin (SMD: 0.16; 95% CI: 0.09, 0.22) but not retinol (SMD: 0.04; 95% CI: 20.06, 0.14). The number of studies on micronutrients other than ferritin and retinol was not sufficient for pooling. Meta-analyses of micronutrient-supplementation RCTs showed only a modest protective effect for multimicronutrient interventions on helminth infection and reinfection rates (OR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.97). Conclusions: In this review, we show evidence of distinct associations between helminth infections and micronutrients in school-age children. More studies are needed on micronutrients other than iron and vitamin A and on possible helminth species-specific effects. A thorough comprehension of the interplay between helminth infections and micronutrients will help guide integrated and sustainable intervention strategies in affected children worldwide. © 2014 American Society for Nutrition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1509
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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