Children who receive sustained treatment against common parasitic infections grow up to achieve a higher standard of living, with long-lasting health and economic benefits extending to their communities, according to new findings from a research team led by a University of California, Berkeley, economist.

This is a close view of the intestinal mucosa in the case of a patient who’d been infested with the human whip worm, Trichuris trichiura

The pioneering study, focused on Kenya and covering 20 years, found that children who receive a few extra years of deworming treatment — costing as little as 50 cents a year — eventually have better jobs and higher incomes than those who got less treatment.

“We found that, in Kenya, this modest investment led to significant improvements in the lives of infected individuals and for whole communities, and the benefits are long-lasting,” said lead author Edward Miguel, a UC Berkeley development economist. “But parasitic infections remain prevalent in many low-income countries, and there’s a resurgence in some poor, rural, low-income areas of the United States. Clearly, this research can serve as a guide to policymakers in much of the world.”

Co-author Michael Kremer, a Harvard University economist who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics for developing novel ways to research poverty, added that the new findings provide an unanticipated warning about the COVID-19 pandemic: Students who lose a year or more of school — and school-based social services — suffer lasting negative impact on their work and earning power.

“These results show that school-based deworming can have an incredibly high rate of return,” said Kremer. “In the current context of Kenya and other countries, many investments in health and education have been interrupted by COVID-19. Finding a way to resume them will be critical for the next generation of children.”

Read more at UC Berkeley