New review highlights need for soil-transmitted helminths data sharing platform

7 November 2017

A new literature review on soil-transmitted helminths provides compelling evidence for the need to develop a data sharing platform to monitor and improve treatment outcomes for this neglected tropical disease.

Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) are estimated to affect over one billion people. The most prevalent infections - by hookworm, whipworm and roundworm - primarily affect the poorest populations in low- and middle-income countries and are responsible for exerting a great health and economic toll on the regions worst affected.

STHs are normally treated with albendazole or mebendazole. These are routinely given to children as part of mass drug administration programmes. For STHs, these programmes aim to reduce the morbidity due to these conditions, using the principles of preventive chemotherapy. Although these programmes have been scaled-up significantly over the past few years, very little evaluation or monitoring of drug efficacy takes place to understand how well these treatments are performing.

This study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases systematically reviewed all studies published since 2000 to understand the variation in the design, implementation, reporting, and evaluation of trials that have collected data suitable for estimating the efficacy of the drugs used to treat STHs. The study also estimates the abundance of individual participant data that could potentially be used in meta-analyses, finding an estimated 35,000 participants who took part in 129 studies across 39 countries.

The findings of this review suggest that there is sufficient data to justify a dedicated STH data platform. Creating such a resource could assist clinicians, drug developers and health care policy-makers to guide treatment options today and help design better therapies and disease control strategies in the future. It would also enable the global health community to evaluate effectively drug efficacy and to respond accordingly to any changes, thereby safeguarding the effectiveness of STH control. 

Publication details:

Halder JB, Benton J, Julé AM, Guérin PJ, Olliaro PL, Basáñez M-G, et al. (2017) Systematic review of studies generating individual participant data on the efficacy of drugs for treating soil-transmitted helminthiases and the case for data-sharing. PLoS Negl Trop Dis11(10): e0006053.

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