Helminths in South Africa: management of cestode and trematode infections in humans
Sub-Saharan Africa has to contend with many challenges, including inadequate healthcare systems, lack of optimal sanitation, and clean water and food. All of these contribute to malnutrition and an increased risk of infections, including parasitism by cestodes and trematodes. Schistosomiasis is a category-2 notifiable trematode (fluke) infection, whereas cestode (tapeworm) infections need not be reported to the South African Department of Health. Epidemiological data for helminthiasis in South Africa is scant, with a paucity of publications on the South African scenario. As such, a complete picture of the impact of helminth infections on all age groups in South Africa does not exist. These parasitic diseases not only have an impact on socio economic development of a country, community and families, but also contribute to the chronic and detrimental effects on the health and nutritional status of the host, including the impaired development of children. In order to break the cycle of poverty and disease, a strong education drive is required in schools and communities to provide effective strategies and guidelines on preventative measures that result in avoidance of exposure to infective stages of Schistosoma and Taenia tapeworms. Also, it is imperative that healthcare professionals are able to recognise the signs and symptoms, so that interventions can be promptly initiated. The current anthelmintic treatments available in South Africa are effective against cestodes and trematodes, with no drug resistance having being reported. The need for compliancy when taking anthelmintic drugs must be emphasised.