Although multiple studies have found that worm infections in developing countries should be treated with deworming pills, there is some debate within health organizations as to who qualifies for treatment. Currently there are 280 million children that are being treated for worms worldwide, but some experts believe that this is excessive.
When people are infected by worms, they suffer multiple ailments, primarily internal bleeding, which can lead to a loss of iron and anemia. Worms also cause diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. Compounding the problem, people also suffer a loss of appetite, which means they ingest less food overall. People most at risk are children and women of childbearing age.
Deworming people, especially children of a young age, has shown to be an effective measure to ensure that they stay in school for longer periods of time. A study conducted in Kenya after a deworming program showed that school absenteeism decreased by 25 percent. Even improved attendance in schools in which no children were treated within a three kilometer radius was remarked.
However, diagnosis is relatively expensive in developing countries because it involves a lab analysis of fecal matter, costing four to ten times the price of treatment. Some experts therefore recommend that mass deworming programs be carried out where a large number have been found to be infected.
This is currently the World Health Organization’s policy. Some scientists have challenged this practice, claiming that the available evidence is not enough to assure the safety or necessity of mass treatments. They believe that a lack of teachers, rather than absent children, are the cause of most problems in education in developing countries.
The deworming medication itself is extremely cheap, at just 30 to 40 cents per child. Many studies have suggested that this is a cost effective way of getting kids to go to school. These children also performed better at academic tests eight year later and at cognitive tests ten years later. In the southern United States, a deworming campaign in the early 1900’s had the same effects.