Worms in human feces linked to growing HIV epidemic
| Contagion – Strategies to prevent HIV transmission during sexual activity include consistent use of condoms and, in some cases, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Now, a new study sheds light on another potential method of prevention: treatment for schistosomiasis.
This potentially fatal infection, caused by a parasitic worm, affects 200 million people worldwide, 90% of whom live in Africa.
The parasitic worms are contracted via contaminated fresh water and travel through the skin into the body and can be excreted in urine and feces.
Infection also appears to be associated with increased HIV activity.
A team of investigators at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta conducted an analysis of data from HIV-discordant heterosexual couples in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
The couples, who had been tracked from 1994 to 2012, were part of a Zambian study designed to determine whether the level of schistosome antibodies, HIV transmission rates, and death rates were connected. HIV Jumps To Heterosexuals in This U.S. City
The Emory team retrospectively tested blood and serum samples taken at baseline from the 2145 participants to see how many had anti-schistosome antibodies and how that related to other outcomes later on.
The Emory investigators discovered that 59% of the study participants tested positive for anti-schistosome antibodies when they first enrolled. And, the team learned, schistosomiasis created a heightened environment in which HIV can flourish.
“Our findings indicate that schistosome infection may be associated with both HIV acquisition and transmission in adults living in the Zambian capital,” Kristin M. Wall, PhD, assistant professor in the department of epidemiology at Rollins, and the study’s lead author, told Contagion®.
Digging deeper, the investigators found that there were notable gender differences when it came to study participants with and without HIV.
Women who were HIV-positive and who had anti-schistosome antibodies were more likely than HIV-positive men with anti-schistosome antibodies to be at an advanced stage of HIV. USA’s HIV Capital: “As Bad As Zimbabwe”