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High fascioliasis infection in children linked to a man-made irrigation zone in Peru

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We detected 10 protozoan and nine helminth species in surveys of 338 5–15 year-old Quechua schoolchildren in three communities of the Asillo zone of the Puno region, located at a very high altitude of 3910 m in the Peruvian Altiplano. The area proved to be hyperendemic for human fascioliasis with a 24.3% overall mean prevalence of Fasciola hepatica, local prevalences ranging between 18.8 and 31.3%, and infection intensities of up to 2496 eggs per gram of faeces (epg), with 196–350 epg (mean: 279 epg) and 96–152 epg (123 epg) as arithmetic and geometric means, respectively. Prevalences did not significantly vary between schools and in relation to sex. No statistical differences were found in intensities between schools, nor according to sex or age groups between and within schools, although the highest overall egg counts were detected in girls and in the youngest age group. Asillo zone is a man-made irrigation area built only recently to which both liver fluke and lymnaeid snails have quickly adapted. The region appears to be isolated from the Northern Bolivian Altiplano natural endemic area. Such man-made water resources in high altitude areas of Andean countries pose a high fascioliasis risk. Significant positive association of F. hepatica with protozooses following a one host life cycle, such as Giardia intestinalis, suggests that human infection mainly occurs through drinking water. This is supported by additional evidence such as the absence of typical aquatic vegetation in the drainage channels inhabited by lymnaeid snails, the absence of aquatic vegetables in the traditional nutrition habits of the Quechua inhabitants, and the lack of potable water systems inside dwellings, which requires inhabitants to obtain water from irrigation canals and drainage channels.
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Keywords: Fasciola hepatica; Peru; associations; intensity; prevalence; schoolchildren

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Valencia, Burjassot, Valencia, Spain, 2: Cátedra de Parasitología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia, 3: Laboratorio de Parasitología, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Nacional del Altiplano de Puno, Perú, 4: Instituto de Medicina Tropical `Daniel A. Carrión', Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Perú

Publication date: 2002-04-01

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