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Intestinal parasite infections in immigrant children in the city of Rome, related risk factors and possible impact on nutritional status

Laura Manganelli1, Federica Berrilli2, David Di Cave12, Lucia Ercoli12, Gioia Capelli3, Domenico Otranto4 and Annunziata Giangaspero5*

Author Affiliations

1 Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Policlinico Tor Vergata, Viale Oxford 81, Rome, Italy

2 Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Chirurgia, University of Tor Vergata, Via Montpellier 1, Rome, Italy

3 Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Viale dell’Università 10, Padova, Legnaro, Italy

4 Dipartimento di Sanità pubblica e Zootecnia, University of Bari, Valenzano, Bari, Italy

5 Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, degli Alimenti e dell’Ambiente, University of Foggia, Via Napoli 25, Foggia, Italy

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Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:265  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-265

Published: 20 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Parasitic diseases can represent a social and economic problem among disadvantaged people - even in developed countries. Due to the limited data available concerning Europe, the aims of the present study were to evaluate the presence of parasites in immigrant children and the risk factors favouring the spread of parasites. Subsequently, the possible correlation between nutritional status and parasitic infections was also investigated.

Findings

A convenience sample of two hundred and forty seven immigrant children (aged 0–15) attending the Poliambulatorio della Medicina Solidale in Rome was examined. Data were collected using structured questionnaires, and parasitological and anthropometric tests were applied. Chi-squared test and binary logistic multiple-regression models were used for statistical analysis.

Thirty-seven children (15%) tested positive to parasites of the following species: Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba coli, Giardia duodenalis, Enterobius vermicularis, Ascaris lumbricoides and Strongyloides stercoralis. A monospecific infection was detected in 30 (81%) out of 37 parasitized children, while the others (19%) presented a polyparasitism. The major risk factors were housing, i.e. living in shacks, and cohabitation with other families (p<0.01). Children classified in the lower height Z-scores had a significantly greater prevalence of parasites (30.9%) than the others (p<0.01).

Conclusions

This study shows that parasite infection in children is still quite common, even in a developed country and that children’s growth and parasitism may be related. Extensive improvements in the living, social and economic conditions of immigrants are urgently needed in order to overcome these problems.

Keywords:
Intestinal parasites; Risk factors; Nutritional status; Immigrant children; Developed country