Twenty-First Century Progress Toward the Global Control of Human Hookworm Infection
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Hookworms are bloodsucking nematodes that afflict up to 740 million persons in tropical and subtropical regions, with Asia and sub-Saharan Africa exhibiting particularly high infection rates. Prevalence, intensity, and pathology often vary considerably at both the regional and local level, and may be influenced by coinfection with other parasitic infections such as malaria. Immunoepidemiological studies suggest that hookworms manipulate the host immune response and may provide some protection from allergy and asthma. There has been substantial progress in elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of hookworm disease, with anticoagulants, protease inhibitors, digestive proteases, and novel excretory/secretory proteins being of particular interest. Mass chemotherapy remains a mainstay of hookworm control strategies, although continued use of drugs may lead to reduced efficacy and treatment failures have been observed. Consequently, a need exists for innovative approaches, such as vaccination; recent studies have identified and/or evaluated candidate vaccine antigens in human and animal models.