UAB is undertaking a new study to determine whether or not hookworm and related intestinal parasites are present in parts of Alabama's Black Belt. The study, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will take place in Wilcox and Perry counties and has started participant recruitment.
Hookworm, an intestinal parasite of humans, was once widespread in the United States, particularly in the Southeast. According to the CDC, improvements in living conditions have greatly reduced hookworm infections. Today, it is most commonly found in warm, moist climates in developing nations in South America, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
However, environmental and wastewater disposal issues in areas of Alabama's Black Belt, have created conditions that support the persistence of these infections.
"Our interest in this project stems from local concerns about health issues in children related to inadequate infrastructure in some of Alabama's rural communities," said Claudette Poole, MD, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases at UAB.
To find out whether children are infected with hookworm or other related intestinal parasites, the researchers have hired local community health care workers to collect stool samples from children in each county. The samples will then be delivered to J. Paul Jones Hospital, a partnering hospital of UAB, in Camden, Alabama, where they will be processed and then sent to the CDC and Georgia Institute of Technology for testing that will determine intestinal parasites are present.
Community members have been integral to the inception, design and implementation of this study.
Researchers plan to collect three samples from each child. Families will receive a monetary reward for each collected sample. The first enrollment opportunity will be on December 12 with Bama Kids, a not-for-profit organization.