Predisposition to soil-transmitted helminth reinfection after four rounds of mass drug administration: results from a longitudinal cohort in the Geshiyaro project, a transmission elimination feasibility study in the Wolaita zone of southern Ethiopia
Background: Current WHO strategies for reaching soil-transmitted helminths (STH) elimination as a public health problem excludes treating certain adult populations in endemic areas, creating infection reservoirs that drive ‘bounce back’ of STH infection to pretreatment levels post-mass drug administration (MDA). Predisposition is a widespread, but poorly understood phenomena among helminth infections where individuals are predisposed to reinfection after repeated treatments.
Methods: This analysis uses Geshiyaro project data, an STH control programme exploring transmission interruption by community-wide MDA and enhanced water, sanitation and hygiene during 2019–2023. Parasitological survey data from longitudinal cohorts are analysed using Kendall's Tau-b rank correlation to assess the evidence for predisposition to light or heavy infection between four consecutive rounds of MDA.
Results: Correlation analyses revealed the strongest evidence for predisposition to heavy or light Ascaris lumbricoides infection was between survey 1 and 2 (Tau-b 0.29; p<0.001). Overall patterns were not observed for Trichuris trichiura or hookworm infections, however, some significant and notable correlations were recorded for some stratifications and time points.
Conclusions: Evidence for predisposition in endemic settings in southern Ethiopia with low STH prevalence suggests that more targeted approaches to MDA in those predisposed to infection may be a sensible control strategy if cheap, point of care diagnostics are available.