Lawrence, Kansas (PRWEB) December 30, 2013
Helminths, or parasitic worms, are an ongoing public health concern. The number of infections has declined in recent decades and continues to drop; however, the “bottom billion” people worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia, are disproportionately infected with diseases spread by parasites.
The current issue of the Journal of Parasitology includes an address by the outgoing American Society for Parasitologists (ASP) President, Eric Loker. In the address, Loker focused on helminth control and explained how the number of people with parasitic infections will likely be greatly reduced in the next few decades. He anticipates that by the 2020s, some helminths may no longer be significant public health concerns.
Since the 1940s, estimates have shown that a decreasing proportion of people are infected with parasites, with overall infection numbers declining even as the worldwide population has exploded. Among the factors contributing to Loker’s optimism are World Health Organization efforts, essential drug donations, and public–private partnerships designed to attack parasite species. Improved communications resulting from cell phone popularity, better mapping and road systems, and relative prosperity worldwide also contribute to the increased likelihood of controlling parasitic infections.
However, Loker was realistic about the problems facing parasite elimination and stressed that control will take time. More than 4 billion helminth infections currently afflict people. Natural disasters, violent conflicts, political instability, and drug resistance are all likely to hinder control efforts. Climate change is also expected to be disruptive, particularly in areas hit by droughts, flooding, and other violent weather. Africa, which is highly affected by parasite-spread diseases, is expected to reach 1 billion people by 2020. This population growth, along with other factors, could make controlling human parasites difficult on the continent.
Loker emphasized that members of the ASP have been important in efforts to end parasitic infections and described areas in which they could continue to be effective. “Young and adventuresome” members of the society were encouraged to play a role by volunteering, conducting research, and seeking grant funding that can further control parasitic diseases.
Full text of the article “This De-Wormed World?” Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 99, No. 6, 2013, is now available.