Geophagia is not associated with Trichuris or hookworm transmission in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Sera L. Young, Dave Goodman, Tamer H. Farag, Said M. Ali, Mzee R. Khatib, Sabra S. Khalfan, James M. Tielsch, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Geophagia may be harmful as a method for the transmission of geohelminths. In this study, we pose two questions in a representative sample of 970 pregnant women from Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Can consumed earth be a vector for geohelminth infection? And do geophagists have differential parasitic infection? The parasitological content of 59 non-food substance samples was analysed. Cross-sectional data regarding pica behaviour were collected through interviews conducted by local researchers. Ascaris, Trichuris and hookworm status was ascertained through Kato-Katz smears. The prevalence of geophagia at baseline was 5.6% and the overall prevalence of Ascaris, Trichuris and hookworm infection was 5.6%, 33.2% and 32.9%, respectively. No consumed soil samples contained infectious parasitic stages, and only one of the consumed pica substances (charcoal) contained parasites of potential risk to human health. In bivariate analyses, neither the prevalence nor the intensity of infection with Ascaris, Trichuris or hookworm differed significantly by geophagia status. Furthermore, in multivariate models, geophagia was not a significant predictor of helminth infection status. We conclude that geophagia is not a source of Trichuris or hookworm infection among pregnant women in Pemba (insufficient power to evaluate the effect of Ascaris), which is in contrast to existing findings of helminth infection and geophagia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-772
Number of pages7
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Geophagia
  • Helminthiasis
  • Parasites
  • Pica
  • Pregnancy
  • Zanzibar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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