Prevalence of intestinal parasites in Southeast Asian refugees

Prevalence of intestinal parasites in Southeast Asian refugees

Prevalence of Intestinal Parasites in Southeast Asian Refugees Over 800,000 Southeast Asian refugees have immigrated to the United States since 1975. While the first immigrants were primarily well educated and from upper socioeconomic classes, the later immigrants have been from more impoverished backgrounds. Many of the more recent immigrants were detained in refugee camps with overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Previous studies have documented a high prevalence of intestinal parasites in this population on entry into the United States.

To estimate the continued prevalence of intestinal parasites in a population of Southeast Asian refugees, Molina and colleagues obtained stool specimens from 2,520 refugees who have resided in this country for about two years. Of these subjects, 54 percent reported a history of previous treatment for intestinal parasites. Previous medical records were not available for many of these patients. At least one parasite was found in 32 percent of the patients tested and multiple parasites were found in 8 percent. In comparison to disease prevalence at the time of immigration, there was a decrease in the frequency of all but three parasites. Giardia lamblia, hookworm and Hymenolepis nana remained common.

Data from this population reveal that substantial numbers of Southeast Asian refugees continue to be infected with intestinal parasites following several years in the United States. Although partially due to poor treatment compliance, G. lamblia and H. nana infection may also be explained by person-to-person transmission or autoinfection. Clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion for parasitic intestinal infestation in Southeast Asian refugees, even if a history of treatment exists. This is especially important in those patients with gastrointestinal symptoms of unexplained etiology. (Western Journal of Medicine, October 1988, vol. 149, p. 422.)

COPYRIGHT 1989 American Academy of Family Physicians

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