Synchronized and regular deworming of children and women in South Africa: Policy and practice
SOUTH AFRICA IS A SIGNATORY TO WORLD Health Assembly (WHA) resolution 54.19 (May 2001), which calls for regular, synchronized treatment of helminthiasis in developing countries, particularly where the prevalence of worm infestation exceeds 50%. Helminthic infection is usually a hallmark of poverty and reasons why it should be controlled in disadvantaged communities are compelling. However, existing South African legislation regulating the procurement and use of anthelmintic medicines effectively renders group-based deworming as agreed to by WHA member states, and endorsed by the South African minister of health, non-implementable in practice. In order to make deworming sustainable, low-cost, unregistered anthelmintics must be imported from international procurement agencies. At present, this is not permitted. Another problem is that both medical and non-medical personnel are confused by out-of-date information in package-inserts regarding safety for young children and pregnant women. Albendazole and praziquantel should be de-scheduled and ivermectin, levamisole and possibly nitazoxanide should be registered in a way that permits treatment by non-medical personnel. Rational alternation of medication is important because reliance on mebendazole will lead to resistance. All batches of anthelmintics ought to comply with pharmacological quality specifications and testing should be routine. Facilities for doing this are available in South Africa.