Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Mass treatment to control helminthiases and skin diseases

Jörg Heukelbach, Benedikt Winter, Thomas Wilcke, Marion Muehlen, Stephan Albrecht, Fabíola Araújo Sales de Oliveira, Lígia Regina Sansigolo Kerr-Pontes, Oliver Liesenfeld, & Hermann Feldmeier



To assess the short-term and long-term impact of selective mass treatment with ivermectin on the prevalence of intestinal helminthiases and parasitic skin diseases in an economically depressed community in north-east Brazil.


An intervention was carried out in a traditional fishing village in north-east Brazil where the population of 605 is heavily affected by ectoparasites and interoparasites. The prevalence of intestinal helminths was determined by serial stool examination and the prevalence of parasitic skin diseases by clinical inspection. Altogether, 525 people out of a target population of 576 were treated at baseline. The majority of these were treated with ivermectin (200 µg/kg of weight with a second dose given after 10 days). If ivermectin was contraindicated, participants were treated with albendazole or mebendazole for intestinal helminths or with topical deltamethrin for ectoparasites. Follow-up examinations were performed at 1 month and 9 months after treatment.


Prevalence rates of intestinal helminthiases before treatment and at 1 month and 9 months after mass treatment were: hookworm disease 28.5%, 16.4% and 7.7%; ascariasis 17.1%, 0.4% and 7.2%; trichuriasis 16.5%, 3.4% and 9.4%; strongyloidiasis 11.0%, 0.6% and 0.7%; and hymenolepiasis 0.6%; 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively. Prevalence rates of parasitic skin diseases before treatment and 1 month and 9 months after mass treatment were: active pediculosis 16.1%, 1.0% and 10.3%; scabies 3.8%, 1.0% and 1.5%; cutaneous larva migrans 0.7%, 0% and 0%; tungiasis 51.3%, 52.1% and 31.2%, respectively. Adverse events occurred in 9.4% of treatments. They were all of mild to moderate severity and were transient.


Mass treatment with ivermectin was an effective and safe means of reducing the prevalence of most of the parasitic diseases prevalent in a poor community in north-east Brazil. The effects of treatment lasted for a prolonged period of time.