Parasitic Worm Infection Can Increase Susceptibility to HIV, Study Finds
July 24, 2008
People infected with parasitic worms that cause schistosomiasis might be more susceptible to HIV and more likely to transmit the virus, according to a study published Tuesday in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, the findings might help explain why HIV particularly has affected regions like sub-Saharan Africa.
"The presence of the worm is like adding fuel to the fire -- it creates more fertile ground for the virus to take hold," Ruprecht said. Secor noted that the findings likely apply to people as well and might confirm theories that parasitic worm infections -- some of which are common in sub-Saharan Africa with unsanitary water supplies -- make people more vulnerable to HIV. "Sub-Saharan Africa has only like 10% of the world's population but almost two-thirds of the world's HIV/AIDS," Secor said. He added, "So there's an apparent disproportionate amount of HIV/AIDS there, and it's very severe. So the hypothesis is that one of the things that may contribute to the more intense nature of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is the presence of these parasitic worms." Ruprecht said the findings emphasize the need for public health measures to control parasitic worm infections in regions where HIV infection is common. According to Reuters, a drug called praziquantel is available to treat schistosomiasis (Dunham, Reuters, 7/22).
The study is available online.
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