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Evidence for spending millions on deworming schoolchildren is inadequate, report says

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3952 (Published 23 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3952
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

New analysis of a landmark paper on the health and economic benefits of eliminating worm infections in children has found little evidence that it does any good.

Deworming programmes have been heavily promoted by the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and international charities as a key to improving health, school performance, and, by inference, economic development in poor and middle income countries. India has recently launched the world’s largest deworming programme, with the aim of treating 240 million children once or twice a year with albendazole, a drug that can eliminate worm infections.1

The policy relies on a limited evidence base, with a single randomised trial carried out in 75 Kenyan schools regularly cited by its proponents. In this 2004 study Edward Miguel of the University of California at Berkeley and Michael Kramer of Harvard University found that the treated children had a lower prevalence of worm infestation, improved nutritional status, and higher school attendance.2 Importantly, they also found that these benefits extended to untreated children in the treated schools and to …

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