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Trichuris trichiura infection and cognition in children: results of a randomized clinical trial

  • D. T. Simeon (a1), S. M. Grantham-McGregor (a1) and M. S. Wong (a1)

Summary

The effects of mild to moderate infections of Trichuris trichiura on cognitive functions were investigated in Jamaican children aged 7 to 10 years. In all, 189 infected children and 100 uninfected classmates were studied. The infected children were randomly assigned to receive treatment (albendazole) or a placebo. All children were given cognitive tests on enrolment and 14 weeks later. These included verbal fluency (generation of ideas), digit span (working memory), number choice (speed of processing of visual stimuli), visual search (sustained attention) and a French Vocabulary test (paired-associate learning). At baseline, the infected children had lower scores than the uninfected ones in fluency (P = 0·01), search (P = 0·02) and French (P = 0·01). Treatment effects were examined among infected children and there was no significant treatment effect for any of the tests. However, there was a significant treatment by weight-for-age interaction in fluency (P < 0·05). The children with low weight-for-age (Z-score < – 1) improved with treatment while there was no improvement with treatment among the other children. We concluded that treatment of children with mild to moderate T. trichiura infections using albendazole produces little benefit in cognition if they are adequately nourished; however, undernourished children are more likely to benefit.

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