Background: Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infection peaks during childhood and varies by sex. The impact of market integration (MI) (increasing production for and consumption from a market-based economy) on these infection patterns, however, is unclear. In this study, STH infection is examined by sex and age among indigenous Shuar inhabiting two regions of Amazonian Ecuador: (1) the modestly market-integrated Upano Valley (UV) and (2) the more traditional Cross-Cutucú (CC) region.
Methods: Kato-Katz fecal smears were examined for parasite presence and infection intensity. Factorial ANOVAs and post hoc simple effects analyses were performed by sex to compare infection intensity between regions and age categories (infant/child, juvenile/adolescent, adult).
Results: Significant age and regional differences in Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura infection were detected. Overall, infants/children and juveniles/adolescents displayed higher parasite loads than adults. CC females exhibited higher A. lumbricoides loads than UV females, while the opposite pattern was observed for T. trichiura infection in males.
Conclusions: Regional infection patterns varied by sex and parasite species, perhaps due to MI-linked environmental and lifestyle changes. These results have public health implications for the identification of individuals at risk for infection and contribute to ongoing efforts to track changes and alleviate STH infection in indigenous populations undergoing MI.