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Prevalence Of Eggs And Cyst Of Parasites Under The Finger Nails Of Primary School Children




  •                                                     INTRODUCTION


In tropical countries, parasitic infections remain a serious public health problem, in view of the high prevalence of protozoan and helminth infections.( Dada-Adegbola et al.,2005)) The World Health Organization has estimated that helminth infections affect around 2 billion people, among whom 5-10% are children under 24 months of age (Katz and Taylor 2001). Helminth infections may lead to malnutrition, anemia, and disturbed appetite (Adeyeba and Akinladi, 2002) and may ultimately result in retarded physical and cognitive development in children (Aisen et al., 2002). A study in North Sumatra reported a prevalence of ascariasis of 76.7% among primary school pupils (Akogun and Badaki, 1998). The factors associated with intestinal parasitic infections in tropical countries include poverty, illiteracy, poor hygiene, poorly organized clean water supply, and hot and humid environmental conditions. Protozoa and helminthic parasites are responsible for the prevalence of diseases capable of affecting an individual’s health. Intestinal parasitic infections (IPI) are global health problems causing clinical illness in 450 million inhabitants, particularly children and women of reproductive age in developing countries (Anosike et al., 2005). IPI, and helminths in particular, are associated with increased risks for nutritional anemia, proteinenergy malnutrition, growth retardation in children, poor increase in body weight in pregnancy, intrauterine growth retardation, and low birth weight (Bethony et al., 2006). Children infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) have poor educational level and performance at school and a high level of truancy, thus impacting on their future earnings and

Productivity (Cheesbrough, 2000). The most important STHs are the common roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and the hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale), which currently are a group of neglected tropical diseases. (Chukwuma et al., 2009)

Children of all ages can develop parasitic diseases such as giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis from swallowing contaminated water during swimming, playing, and other activities in contaminated recreational water (e.g. pools, fountains, lakes, rivers and streams, etc.). Pets and other animals can be a potential sources of parasites that can affect children. Toxoplasmosis is spread by ingesting soil or litter-box contents with infectious cat feces. Children can also be born with this infection if their mother was infected during pregnancy. Several parasitic diseases occur occasionally in the United States and more frequently in developing countries. They include strongyloidiasis, caused by a worm infection that is of particular danger for children with an impaired immune system. It is acquired when larvae (immature worms) in soil contaminated with infected human feces come into contact with and penetrate the skin. They also include visceral toxocariasis, spread when children ingest soil contaminated with dog or cat feces containing the eggs of cat or dog roundworms, and cutaneous larva migrans, transmitted when children walk barefoot on soil contaminated with cat or dog hookworm larvae that penetrate their skin.

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) diseases (“helminth” means parasitic worm) are of major importance in developing countries. They are caused by infection with roundworm, hookworm or whipworm, and can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, intestinal obstruction, anemia, and retarded growth and cognitive development. Children become infected by ingesting roundworm and whipworm eggs that have matured in soil contaminated by human feces, or by walking barefoot in contaminated soil where human hookworm eggs have hatched, producing larvae that penetrate the skin. Schistosomiasis, another major parasitic disease among children in some developing countries, can also cause impaired growth and development and can lead to severe health problems later in life. It is caused by a helminth that spends part of its life cycle in certain types of snail and penetrates the skin of people when they stand or swim in water where the snails live. The helminth causing onchocerciasis (“river blindness”) is transmitted by the bite of a type of blackfly that breeds near flowing water. It can cause itching and impaired vision in children, and lead to blindness in adulthood. Children are infected with the helminth causing lymphatic filariasis though mosquito bites. Damage to the lymphatic system in children is mostly asymptomatic, but can become symptomatic by puberty and lead to swollen arms and legs and an enlarged, fluid-filled scrotum in adulthood.

Children with poor personal hygiene could be potential sources of infections of many intestinal helminths and protozoa.


Intestinal parasites are found everywhere, such as in fingernail dirt, in areas abounding in flies and cockroaches, and in contaminated foods. Children who harbor and excrete intestinal parasites may cause fecal contamination of foods via their fingers and finally to healthy individuals through handshake. Compared to other parts of the hand, the area beneath fingernails harbors the most microorganisms and is most difficult to clean (MacPherson, 1999).

Therefore, fingernails could be a source of infectious parasitic diseases if hygiene is not maintained.


  • Determine the prevalence of intestinal parasites from fingernail dirt among children in Abakaliki Local Government Area.
  • To identify the factors associated with infestation of the parasites.
  • To investigate the sex difference in infection among the children
  • To assess the age difference in the infection rate among the children.



         A parasite survives by hijacking another organism, robbing it of nutrients and thanking it by leaving behind toxic waste.  Obviously, we would be much happier without having these pintsized freeloaders around.  Children with parasitic infections are usually undernourished and weak. Numerous protozoans inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of humans. This list includes representatives from many diverse protozoan groups. The majoritiy of protozoa are non-pathogenic commensals, or their presence only result in mild disease and also the pathogenic forms (Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica and Blastocystis hominis). Some of these organisms can cause severe disease under certain circumstances such as severe acute diarrhoea which may lead to chronic diarrhoea, nutritional disorders, dysentery and potentially lethal systemic disease. G. intestinalis is the most prevalent parasitic cause of diarrhoea in the developed world, and this infection is also very common in developing countries. Amoebiasis is the third leading cause of death from parasitic diseases worldwide, with its greatest impact on the people of developing countries.

The world Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 50 million people worldwide suffer from invasive amoebic infection each year, resulting in 40-100 thousand deaths annually (WHO, 1997 and Petri et al., 2000). Cryptosporidiosis is becoming most prevalent in both developed and developing countries among patients with AIDS and among children aged less than five years. Several outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases caused by C. cayetanensis have been reported during the last decade (Herwaldt et al., 2000). Spread of these protozoan parasites in developing countries mostly occurs through faecal contamination as a result of poor sewage and poor quality of water. Parasitic infections are governed by behavioural, biological, environmental, socioeconomic and health systems factors. Local conditions, including access to and quality of domestic and village infrastructure, economic factors such as disposable income, employment and occupation, and social factors such as education, influence the risk of infection, disease transmission and associated morbidity and mortality. Food and water-borne outbreaks of these protozoan parasites have occurred, and the infectious cyst form of the parasites is relatively resistant to chlorine (Okhuysen and white, 1999).

2.1.   Types of Parasite
Parasites include an amazing cast of characters that can end up taking residence in our bodies.  There are four different groups to choose from: roundworms, single celled protozoa, tapeworms and flukes.
2.1.1. Helminths

Helminth is a general term meaning worm. The helminths are invertebrates characterized by elongated, flat or round bodies. In medically oriented schemes the flatworms or platyhelminths (platy from the Greek root meaning “flat”) include flukes and tapeworms. Roundworms are nematodes (nemato from the Greek root meaning “thread”). These groups are subdivided for convenience according to the host organ in which they reside, e.g., lung flukes, extraintestinal tapeworms, and intestinal roundworms. This chapter deals with the structure and development of the three major groups of helminths.

Helminths develop through egg, larval (juvenile), and adult stages. Knowledge of the different stages in relation to their growth and development is the basis for understanding the epidemiology and pathogenesis of helminth diseases, as well as for the diagnosis and treatment of patients harboring these parasites. Platyhelminths and nematodes that infect humans have similar anatomic features that reflect common physiologic requirements and functions. The outer covering of helminths is the cuticle or tegument. Prominent external structures of flukes and cestodes are acetabula (suckers) or bothria (false suckers). Male nematodes of several species possess accessory sex organs that are external modifications of the cuticle. Internally, the alimentary, excretory, and reproductive systems can be identified by an experienced observer. Tapeworms are unique in lacking an alimentary canal. This lack means that nutrients must be absorbed through the tegument. The blood flukes and nematodes are bisexual. All other flukes and tapeworm species that infect humans are hermaphroditic.

With few exceptions, adult flukes, cestodes, and nematodes produce eggs that are passed in excretions or secretions of the host. The various stages and their unique characteristics will be reviewed in more detail as each major group of helminths is considered. Flukes (Trematodes)

A dorsoventrally flattened body, bilateral symmetry, and a definite anterior end are features of platyhelminths in general and of trematodes specifically. Flukes are leaf-shaped, ranging in length from a few millimeters to 7 to 8 cm. The tegument is morphologically and physiologically complex. Flukes possess an oral sucker around the mouth and a ventral sucker or acetabulum that can be used to adhere to host tissues. A body cavity is lacking. Organs are embedded in

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