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Nutritional status of children with schistosomiasis mansoni in two different areas of Machakos District, Kenya

Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0035-9203(92)90305-v
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Medicine


Abstract A possible association between nutritional status and Schistosoma mansoni infection or morbidity was investigated by comparing anthropometric indices among 362 children from 3 primary schools in Machakos District, Kenya. Matithini was a prosperous school in an area (Kangundo) of moderate intensity of schistosome infection but low associated morbidity. A second area (Kambu) showed more severe schistosome-associated morbidity: in this area, Kitengei school was prosperous and with high intensities of schistosome infection, while Misuuni school was less prosperous and with low intensities of infection. Nutritional status was assessed by measurement and appropriate standardization of height, weight and skinfold thickness and by questionnaires concerning diet. Children in Kangundo were better nourished than those in Kambu. Within Kambu, children from Misuuni showed low mean skinfold thickness and low mean weight-for-height (‘wasting’): this was associated with a lack of dietary variety and of intake of animal products. In contrast, those from Kitengei showed low mean height-for-age (‘stunting’). The relationship between intensity of schistosome infection and nutritional indices, although significant, was complex and not readily interpretable. However, intensity of infection was also correlated with hepatomegaly, which was more clearly related to nutritional status. Depending on the school, children with hepatomegaly were significantly more stunted and/or wasted than those without, and had less variety in their diet. Possible reasons for the observed associations are discussed and, of various possibilities, the hypothesis is suggested that schistosome-associated morbidity leads to a subsequent nutritional defect. This hypothesis can now be tested by appropriate intervention studies.

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