Helminth infections are now recognised as being a major health priority worldwide.
Morbidity due to these infections can be controlled at a reasonable cost by means
of periodic chemotherapy using effective drugs. Deworming campaigns targeted at high
risk groups, such as school-age children, pre-school children and women of child-bearing
age, are the mainstay of the control strategy launched by WHO. Anthelminthic drugs
can be delivered effectively through the school system, women's associations or other
community-based interventions, each of which often lack health personnel supervision.
The safety of anthelminthic drugs is, therefore, of paramount importance and side
effects have to be recognised and monitored, especially when generic drugs are widespread.
Four anthelminthic drugs are considered to provide appropriate single dose treatment
against soil-transmitted helminthiasis: albendazole, levamisole, mebendazole and pyrantel.
Side effects, at the dosage recommended for deworming, have been described as negligible
and self-limiting. However, a limited number of reports have associated more severe
adverse reactions to the distribution of anthelminthic medicines. Even if the available
information cannot confirm a cause-effect relationship, it is essential that these
effects are known. Ministries of Health can then set up efficient and safe delivery,
monitoring and referral systems, in order to minimise the risk and maximise the benefit
of periodic anthelminthic chemotherapy in communities where soil-transmitted helminthiasis