More than 1.5 billion people, or 24 per cent of the world’s population, are infected with worms worldwide, known as helminth infections. They tend to be more prevalent in tropical and subtropical areas, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and East Asia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends deworming drug treatment once or twice a year for all children living in areas where soil-transmitted helminths are endemic.
There is evidence that these worms can have a significant impact on the growth and development of children, and can affect their cognitive development in the long run. In these countries, the WHO also advises that women of reproductive age (including pregnant women in the second and third trimesters and breastfeeding women) and adults in certain high-risk occupations – such as tea-pickers or miners – undergo regular deworming.
However, this recommendation does not extend to all adults, and certainly not in the UK. For now, we should stick to deworming pets regularly.
UK children only need to be treated when they have symptoms (usually worms can be seen as little threads in the child’s poo).
If treating a symptomatic child, then the whole household needs treating, even if they do not have symptoms, to try and prevent further spread.
Dr Nish Manek is a GP in London. She completed her medical degree at Imperial College and was runner-up in the University of London Gold Medal. Manek has also developed teaching courses for Oxford Medical School, and has penned articles for The Guardian and Pulse magazine.