CASCADES AND KEY POINTS
Guideline Key Points
- Strongyloides stercoralis is a soil-transmitted helminth, but it has a unique life cycle that can be completed in the human host, in a process known as autoinfection.
- Worldwide, the burden of disease is substantial (300 to 400 million infections). Strongyloidiasis is mainly prevalent in the tropics and subtropics, but there is as yet no global public health strategy for controlling the parasite.
- Infection is particularly serious, and may be disseminated outside the alimentary tract, in immunocompromised people—those with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) infection and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs.
- Clinical signs are often absent, but they may be diagnostic (larva currens). Diarrhea and malabsorption may be present in chronic infection.
- The diagnosis was traditionally established by identifying larvae in feces (using the Baermann funnel technique), but this has been progressively replaced by commercially available serodiagnostic kits.
- The treatment of choice is single-dose ivermectin 200 µg/kg. An alternative is albendazole, but this is significantly less effective and is not recommended.
- Infection can be prevented by avoiding skin contact with soil that contains larvae.
WORLD GASTROENTEROLOGY ORGANISATION (WGO) CASCADES FOR THE DIAGNOSIS AND MANAGEMENT OF STRONGYLOIDIASIS
About WGO Cascades
WGO cascades: a hierarchical set of diagnostic, therapeutic, and management options for dealing with risk and disease, ranked by the resources available.
WGO guidelines and cascades are intended to highlight appropriate, context-sensitive, and resource-sensitive management options for all geographical areas, regardless of whether they are “developing,” “semideveloped,” or “developed.” WGO cascades are context-sensitive, and the context is not necessarily defined solely by resource availability.
Cascade options both for diagnosis and management of strongyloidiasis (Tables 1, 2) are key, and represent the most important part of this document. Particular emphasis is given to gold-standard, medium-resource, and low-resource categories. In addition, we also suggest 1 or more algorithms that should guide the clinician through the pathway of the patient’s clinical history, clinical signs and symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatment options.
TABLE 1 -
Cascade Options for Diagnosing Strongyloidiasis
||Cascade of Diagnostic Options
||IgG anti-Strongyloides serology plus one fecal test: Baermann or PCR
||IgG anti-Strongyloides serology plus one fecal test: STS
||One fecal test: STS
For confirmation of eradication after treatment, a negative fecal test plus a reduction in the serology titer is required. Refinements of PCR diagnosis are still evolving.
Ig indicates immunoglobulin; PCR, polymerase chain reaction; STS, spontaneous tube sedimentation.
TABLE 2 -
Cascade With Resource-sensitive Options for Managing Strongyloidiasis
||Cascade of Therapeutic Options
WGO Cascades for the Diagnosis of Strongyloidiasis
Cascade for the Management of Strongyloidiasis
For the strongyloidiasis treatment cascade, there is only really one option, which is single-dose ivermectin, irrespective of the local resource level. In case of treatment failure and in view of the lack of evidence for alternative treatments, we recommend repeating the ivermectin course over 2 days.
Strongyloidiasis is an infection with S. stercoralis, a roundworm that occurs widely in tropical and subtropical areas, but also in countries with temperate climates (Tables 3, 4).
TABLE 3 -
World Health Organization (WHO) Key Facts on Strongyloidiasis
|•An estimated 370 million people are infected worldwide1 (see also risk factors and special groups at risk for disseminated infection); precise data on prevalence are unknown in countries where it is endemic
|•Infection is acquired through direct contact with contaminated soil during agricultural, domestic, and recreational activities; autoinfection can occur
|•Like other soil-transmitted helminthiases, the risk of infection is associated with poor hygiene, making children especially vulnerable to infection
|•Strongyloidiasis is frequently underdiagnosed, because many cases are asymptomatic; moreover, commonly used diagnostic methods lack sensitivity
|•Without appropriate therapy, the infection does not resolve and may persist for life
|•Infection may be severe and even life-threatening in cases of immunodeficiency
|•No public health strategies for controlling the disease have been developed at the global level
|•In April 2017, ivermectin was added to the WHO essential drug list, with strongyloidiasis as an indication
TABLE 4 -
Infection Types—Terminology Explained
|Strongyloidiasis Pathways of Infection
||A mostly asymptomatic process that enables the parasite to survive indefinitely in the human host
||A process of intense autoinfection; the phase in which third-stage larvae can be found in fresh stools
||The outcome of hyperinfection: larvae can be found anywhere, including in the sputum, urine, and gastric juice
Strongyloidiasis is different from all other soil-transmitted helminthic infections because the eggs produced through parthenogenesis by the parasitic female worm hatch when still in the bowel and produce rhabditiform larvae.
The presence of strongyloides in the gut wall causes inflammation and, in varying degrees, villous atrophy with consequent intestinal malabsorption. This inflammatory response also increases intestinal permeability and facilitates translocation of intestinal bacteria through the gut into the systemic circulation—part of the hyperinfection syndrome.
Soil-transmitted Helminthiases and Strongyloidiasis
Although strongyloidiasis has a similar route of infection to the other soil-transmitted helminthiases, it needs additional diagnostic tools beyond microscopy and requires different treatment. In areas in which preventive anthelmintic chemotherapy with ivermectin has been used to control onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis, there has been a noticeable reduction in the prevalence of strongyloidiasis.2–6 The World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines Committee has included ivermectin in its list, including in combination with albendazole, for strongyloidiasis. Some 900 million people are now receiving this combination as part of neglected tropical disease (NTD) campaigns.7
S. stercoralis has a unique and complex life cycle. Figure 1 outlines the unique routes of S. stercoralis replication.
The life cycle of Strongyloides is more complex than that of most nematodes, with its alternation between free-living and parasitic cycles and its potential for autoinfection and multiplication within the host. There are 2 types of cycle:
- The free-living cycle. The rhabditiform larvae passed in the stool can either molt twice and become infective filariform larvae (direct development), or molt 4 times and become free-living adult males and females that mate and produce eggs from which rhabditiform larvae hatch. The latter in turn can either develop into a new generation of free-living adults or into infective filariform larvae. The filariform larvae penetrate the human host’s skin to initiate the parasitic cycle. The free-living stage of the nematode’s life cycle is limited to a maximum of one generation.9 This is a unique feature of strongyloidiasis that has important implications both for treating infected people and for environmental control in preventing transmission. This means that it is vital that eradication therapy must be highly effective to remove all viable forms of the organism from the infected individual.
- The parasitic cycle. Filariform larvae in contaminated soil penetrate the human skin and are transported to the lungs, where they penetrate the alveolar spaces; they are carried through the bronchial tree to the pharynx, are swallowed, and then reach the small intestine. In the small intestine, they molt twice and become adult female worms. The females live threaded in the epithelium of the small intestine and through parthenogenesis produce eggs, which yield rhabditiform larvae. The rhabditiform larvae can either be passed in the stool (see “The free-living cycle” above) or can develop further and cause autoinfection. In autoinfection, the rhabditiform larvae become infective filariform larvae, which can penetrate either the intestinal mucosa (internal autoinfection) or the skin of the perianal area (external autoinfection); in either case, the filariform larvae may follow the previously described route, being carried successively to the lungs, the bronchial tree, the pharynx, and the small intestine, where they mature into adults; or they may disseminate widely in the body. To date, occurrence of autoinfection in humans with helminthic infections is recognized only in S. stercoralis and Capillaria philippinensis infections. S. stercoralis is much more common and widespread. In strongyloidiasis, autoinfection explains the existence of infections persisting in persons who have not been in an endemic area for many years (the current record is 65 y) and the life-threatening morbidity of hyperinfection in immunocompromised individuals—both unusual for worm infections.
Disease Burden and Endemicity
Strongyloidiasis is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions (Figs. 2–5), and the prevalence is probably much higher than the 100 million people previously quoted: higher estimates of up to 370 million people have been published.1 It is also widespread in Eastern Europe, and scattered foci of the infection have been reported in elderly people in the Mediterranean region.
We know little about the prevalence of infection and less about the clinical burden of morbidity. If it is indeed widespread, the risk of iatrogenic hyperinfection (with immunosuppressive management) is a challenge. It is thought that strongyloidiasis infects up to 40% of the population in some areas of the tropics and subtropics.13
Important notes: Australia, like other developed countries, is known to have Strongyloides “hot spots” that are not shown on this map (notably some migrants from endemic regions have it, but it is also endemic in some Aboriginal populations in the north of Australia).9,14 The figure illustrates how poor the data are. It is implausible that Strongyloides is absent from most of Africa and Asia. Other studies could have been cited that include evidence that Strongyloides infection is widespread. It is equally implausible that some countries shown have population-wide prevalences higher than 50%; the possibility of selection bias should be considered.
Migrant infections may occur in any country and may represent a potential global hazard. The disease can present in a consulting room anywhere.
Risk Factors and Special Groups at Risk of Infection
The biggest risk factor overall is a socioeconomic disadvantage in a relevant environment in which Strongyloides is endemic.
- Poverty, poor housing, poor sanitation; walking barefoot, living in an environment in which open defecation occurs, prisoners of war.
- Travelers and refugees to and from endemic areas.
- Some studies have reported male sex, advanced age, animal-human transmission, and humid, wet climates in the tropics and subtropics as risk factors.11
Risk Factors and Special Groups at Risk for Disseminated Infection
- Immunosuppressive medication—especially corticosteroids, but also tacrolimus and chemotherapeutic agents
- HTLV-I infection.
- Neoplasms, particularly hematologic malignancies (lymphoma, leukemia).
- Organ transplantation (kidney allograft recipients).
- Minor/possible risk factors: collagen vascular disease, malabsorption and malnutrition states, end-stage renal disease, diabetes mellitus, local host factors, diverticular and blind loops (persistent strongyloidiasis in a blind loop in the intestine).
Strongyloidiasis and Immunosuppressed Patients
Strongyloidiasis ranges from asymptomatic to severe forms and can lead to hyperinfection syndrome and disseminated disease, associated with a high mortality rate in immunosuppressed patients.
In the tropics, there are many patients with rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, and glomerulonephritis who receive long-term steroid treatment. Patients can purchase steroids directly from pharmacies.
Strongyloidiasis is not an important acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)-associated opportunistic infection, but it is an opportunistic infection associated with HTLV-I.15 Although patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS can have disseminated strongyloidiasis or hyperinfection syndrome, observational studies have not shown an increased risk in this population.16
Mortality and Morbidity
Acute strongyloidiasis is often asymptomatic and can remain hidden for decades. Immunocompetent patients often have asymptomatic chronic lifelong infections if untreated.
Chronic infections are a potentially important cause of undisclosed morbidity. There is also a lack of efficient diagnostic tools, which are often cumbersome and have low sensitivity so that the true prevalence of infection and morbidity is not known. Since strongyloidiasis is viewed as an unusual disease, there has been little investment in diagnostic or epidemiological surveys, especially in children.
Clinically apparent strongyloidiasis can lead to cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary symptoms.
PHYSICAL SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The key to diagnosing strongyloidiasis (Table 5) is to have an index of suspicion—the diagnosis can only be made for certain when the worm is identified in the stool. If there is a low worm burden, and due to the intermittent release of larvae in stool, it is often impossible to detect the worm if only a single stool is examined. A serial analysis of specimens taken over 3 days is necessary. A white blood cell count (WBC) is important, as is eosinophilia (high in 50% of patients).
TABLE 5 -
Uncomplicated Strongyloidiasis: Physical Signs and Symptoms
||•Larva currens—intradermal migration of Strongyloides (most characteristic sign, but exceedingly rare in this phase)
||•Itch (usually on feet)
||•Wheezing/cough, low-grade fever
|Chronic usually the result of autoinfection
||•Larva currens (most characteristic sign)
||•Asymptomatic/vague abdominal complaints
||•Intermittent diarrhea (alternating with constipation)
||•Occasional nausea and vomiting
||•Weight loss (if heavier infection)
||•Itching or recurrent skin rashes (chronic urticaria)
A patient’s eosinophilia status can be confusing: it is a most helpful sign in simple, uncomplicated infections and is mostly absent in disseminated strongyloidiasis.
Table 6 lists signs and symptoms that can be seen with hyperinfection syndrome and disseminated strongyloidiasis.16
TABLE 6 -
Signs and Symptoms in Hyperinfection and Disseminated Strongyloidiasis
|•Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
|•Ileus, bowel edema, intestinal obstruction
|•Mucosal ulceration and subsequent peritonitis or bacterial sepsis
|•Massive intestinal hemorrhage
|Pulmonary manifestations and findings
|•Cough, wheezing, dyspnea, hoarseness
|•Diffuse interstitial infiltrates or consolidation on chest radiographs
|•Aseptic or gram-negative meningitis
|•Larvae have been reported in the CSF, meningeal vessels, dura, and epidural, subdural, and subarachnoid spaces
|•Peripheral edema and ascites secondary to hypoalbuminemia from protein-losing enteropathy
|•Recurrent gram-negative bacteremia/sepsis from larvae carrying bacteria through mucosal walls
|•Syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone
|•Peripheral blood eosinophilia is frequently absent
|•Recurrent maculopapular or urticarial rash most commonly found on the buttocks, perineum, and thighs due to repeated autoinfection, but can be found anywhere on the skin
|•Larva currens—pathognomonic serpiginous or urticarial rash that advances as rapidly as 10 cm/h
CSF indicates cerebrospinal fluid.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.16
DIAGNOSIS AND DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS
Evidence highlights the need to survey patients with eosinophilia even when a history of residence or travel in an endemic area is absent.17
Several diagnostic procedures have been developed over the years, and their use depends on local availability and relevant expertise: string tests, duodenal aspirates, duodenal biopsy, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), immunodiagnostic tests, and repeated examination of fresh stool with different methods.
The global prevalence of S. stercoralis infection has long been underestimated. This is likely due to reliance on direct stool microscopy and the Kato-Katz technique, which are commonly used in prevalence studies but are inadequate for S. stercoralis detection (Table 7).21 The commonly used fecal-based methods have particularly low sensitivity. Microscopy can be improved by examination of several stool samples, as well as concentration techniques,22 but the sensitivity remains low.
TABLE 7 -
Sensitivity of Strongyloides
|Modified Baermann in cup
CDC indicates Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; EIA, enzyme immune essay; ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; Ig, immunoglobulin; PCR, polymerase chain reaction.
Santiago and Leitão19
and Gyorkos et al.20
In both low/middle-income and also developed countries, the number of personnel who are well trained in the microscopic identification of parasites appears to be decreasing.
- The application of molecular assays, still lagging behind virology or bacteriology, is expected to increase in parasitology.
- Molecular diagnosis of S. stercoralis infection has yet to demonstrate optimal sensitivity.
- Molecular diagnosis is unlikely to completely replace the other diagnostic techniques.
- Serological assays currently show the highest sensitivity and are important for the screening of S. stercoralis and assessment of cure.21
Lodh et al23 presented research results showing that S. stercoralis DNA can be detected in urine. Once available, and if they are sufficiently sensitive, urine sample tests may be attractive, as they are much less labor-intensive and resource-intensive and do not involve the health risk of examining fresh stool.23
Finding the larvae in stool, duodenal fluid, or occasionally in other tissues or fluids by means of microscopy establishes a definitive diagnosis of strongyloidiasis (Tables 8, 9; Supplemental Figs, Supplemental Digital Content, https://links.lww.com/JCG/A598 and https://links.lww.com/JCG/A599).25 However, because of low larval densities, a single examination is insensitive.26
TABLE 8 -
Stool Tests for Strongyloidiasis
||Individual Diagnosis and Screening
||Assessment of Cure
|Spontaneous tube sedimentation (STS)
||Suitable for basic laboratories in endemic areas; conflicting results on sensitivity
|Formalin-ether concentration technique (FECT)
||Unsuitable (suboptimal sensitivity)
|Baermann funnel technique, Koga agar plate culture (APC)
||Up to now the most accurate fecal tests, but do not exclude infection if negative; cumbersome, not routinely performed
||Suitable, but will tend to overestimate cure rate if used alone
|Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), real-time PCR (RT-PCR)
||Good, potentially cost-effective, allow simultaneous detection of multiple pathogens; low sensitivity for light infections according to some studies
||Many laboratories now have validated in-house tests that are routinely used (in conjunction with other methods). May become reference fecal tests for inclusion in trials and cure monitoring
Buonfrate et al.21
TABLE 9 -
Spontaneous Tube Sedimentation (STS) Protocol
||Approximately 10 g of feces is mixed with 10 mL of normal saline solution until homogenized (30-60 s or longer, as needed)
||Pour the homogenate into a conical tube (13×2.5 cm, 50 mL capacity) fitted with a cap using a filter (surgical gauze) at the top of the tube
||Discard gauze and fill the tube with normal saline solution—don’t overfill; close cap tightly, taking care to avoid contact with the contents
||Shake for 30 s and leave the tube in the vertical position for 45 min
||Take the sediment from the bottom of the tube using a plastic pipette
||Place 2-3 drops in 2 smears; add Lugol solution to one of them, cover (6×2 cm), and observe under a microscope (×100 and ×400)
Several methods are used to identify larvae in stool by microscopy:
- Microscopy after concentration
- Baermann funnel technique (still regarded as the gold standard).
- Formalin-ether concentration technique (FECT).
- Microscopy after culture
- Harada-Mori filter paper culture.
- Koga agar plate culture.
- Direct microscopy
- Use of a dissecting microscope to visualize larvae on agar plates.
- Direct smear of feces in saline-Lugol iodine stain.
The use of these methods depends on local resource availability and especially the expertise of the microscopist.
Stool analyses for Strongyloides using the Baermann funnel technique and Koga agar culture method are the best fecal diagnostic methods for field settings today. These methods detect the parasite with greater sensitivity than other fecal methods.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is promising, but not yet standardized; there are concerns about the sensitivity of PCR, as it varies across different studies.
- Anamnart et al27 tested stimulation of excretion of S. stercoralis larvae in stool by oral administration of a single dose of 400 mg albendazole and suggested that the application of albendazole plus the modified formalin-ether concentration technique (MFECT) could be used in patients with suspected asymptomatic strongyloidiasis—including patients with unexplained chronic diarrhea, patients returning from areas where strongyloidiasis is endemic, and patients with negative results in other parasitological tests.27
Serodiagnosis of Strongyloidiasis
In comparison with the Baermann technique and agar plate culture, serological tests have greater sensitivity, although some authors have concerns about their specificity.16
- Many serological tests cross-react with filarial parasites, schistosomes, and Ascaris lumbricoides, decreasing the specificity of the tests.
- It can be difficult to distinguish between active cases and historical cases, as antibodies can persist for some time.
- More specific serological tests using recombinant antigens have been and are continuing to be developed and are available at specific laboratories.
- Serological tests typically show a significant drop in titer by 6 to 12 months after parasite eradication, so that they can be used to assess cure.16
The most convenient and widely used serological method is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) against a crude extract of filariform larvae. ELISA is labor-intensive and requires a certain level of laboratory infrastructure for performance and interpretation of results, and this has hampered its applicability especially in areas where Strongyloides is endemic.26 Moreover, serology has limited value for follow-up after cure in endemic areas, as reinfection is possible.
There are many conditions that produce similar symptoms, including causes of acute and chronic diarrhea and malabsorption, other causes of eosinophilia, and other causes of severe gram-negative septicemia. The following should be considered in the differential diagnosis:
Intestinal infections—amebiasis, bacterial colitis, Shigella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, Clostridium difficile; see the WGO Global Guideline on Acute Diarrhea (Table 4).28
Nonhuman hookworm infection, producing cutaneous larva migrans—distinguished from the larva currens caused by S. stercoralis by the absence of scabbing, rapid migration, perianal involvement, and a wide band of urticaria in larva currens.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Functional abdominal disorders.
- Drugs—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and many others—are possible causes of eosinophilia.
The key diagnostic element is to think of strongyloidiasis as a possible diagnosis and identify the parasite directly and/or through serological/molecular tests.
MANAGEMENT OF STRONGYLOIDIASIS
- Spontaneous cure cannot be expected, due to the parasite’s unique autoinfection life cycle.
- Treat all patients with strongyloidiasis, even when asymptomatic, because of the risk of hyperinfection—a potentially fatal complication.
- Reliable diagnosis of patients at risk is needed for accurate recognition and treatment before immunosuppressive therapy is initiated, or in patients with HTLV-I or HIV infection.
- If emergency immunosuppression is required in a patient who may have previously undiagnosed strongyloidiasis, and diagnostic tests are not rapidly available (very few hospitals can do same-day serology), presumptive treatment with ivermectin should be considered.
- Cure can be achieved with single-dose ivermectin.
- Failure of treatment with ivermectin is generally due to the impairment of host immunity (frequent in patients with HTLV-I infection).26,29
A 2016 Cochrane review assessed the effects of ivermectin versus benzimidazoles (albendazole and thiabendazole) for treating Strongyloides infection.30
- Ivermectin versus albendazole: cure rates with albendazole treatment were 48%, with a 26% rate of adverse events being reported, versus cure rates of 84% and an adverse event rate of 21% for ivermectin.
- Ivermectin versus thiabendazole: cure rates with thiabendazole treatment were 69%, with a 73% rate of adverse events being reported, versus cure rates of 74% and an adverse event rate of 23% for ivermectin.
The treatment of strongyloidiasis (Table 10) is difficult because, in contrast to other helminth infections, the Strongyloides worm burden has to be eradicated completely.
- Complete eradication is difficult to ascertain, because of the low worm load and irregular larval output.
- A definitive cure cannot be established on the basis of a negative follow-up stool examination alone—it also requires a decline in both serological titers and eosinophilia.
- A single stool analysis for strongyloidiasis was found to be negative in up to 70% of known cases of Strongyloides infection. Reliable testing requires multiple stool examinations, probably at least 3 and with suitable techniques.
- In the tropics, follow-up is a problem and if only fecal testing is available, it becomes the method of choice.
- Albendazole (400 mg bid for 3 d) is sometimes used as an alternative or compromise.32,33 However, the efficacy of albendazole in the treatment of strongyloidiasis has been shown to be very low in comparison with ivermectin, and it should therefore not be used unless there is no alternative.30
TABLE 10 -
Preferred Medication for Strongyloidiasis
||Dose Regimens and Limitations of Use
|Brand names: Stromectol, Mectizan
||•Drug of choice for acute and chronic strongyloidiasis
|•Binds selectively with glutamate-gated chloride ion channels in invertebrate nerve and muscle cells, causing cell death
|•Half-life is 16 h; metabolized in liver
||•200 µg/kg as a single oral dose
||•If >2 y or >15 kg, administer as in adults
||•If <15 kg: safety and efficacy not established
||•Safety for use during pregnancy has not been established
|•Do not use in first trimester of pregnancy and avoid use until after delivery, if possible
|•If there is (a risk of) hyperinfection, the benefit outweighs the risk and the women should be treated
||•Treat mothers who intend to breastfeed only when the risk of delayed treatment outweighs possible risks to the newborn caused by ivermectin excretion in milk
|•Perform stool examinations to verify eradication of infection
|•Repeat courses of therapy may be required in patients who are immunocompromised
|•May cause nausea, vomiting, mild CNS depression, and drowsiness
|•Ivermectin may very rarely precipitate encephalitis in people who have concomitant heavy infection with Loa loa, due to the mass killing of microfilariae in the CNS. Loiasis should be excluded when treating patients who come from endemic areas
|Use as public health intervention
||•The use of single-dose ivermectin is currently being considered as a treatment in community campaigns in endemic areas, as part of a comprehensive preventive chemotherapy strategy
CNS indicates central nervous system.
Hyperinfection or Disseminated Infection
Although some authors state that these terms describe 2 different aspects of the infection (hyperinfection: high levels of larvae in the usual body parts; dissemination: larvae present in any body part, not usually included in the parasitic cycle), they can probably be used interchangeably. In fact, they both refer to a very high parasite load and rapid spread of the infection—usually in immunosuppressed patients and often associated with corticosteroid treatment. Hyperinfection carries a high risk of gram-negative septicemia, so broad-spectrum antibiotics are usually given, especially to prevent bacterial meningitis.
In critically ill people with hyperinfection or disseminated strongyloidiasis who are unable to take oral medicines, ivermectin has been administered successfully by the subcutaneous route.34 For critically ill people, ivermectin is given daily for a duration of at least 14 days, with the total duration of treatment depending on when microscopic examinations of body fluids positive for larvae become negative (this can be stool or urine, or others in cases of hyperinfection).35
Prevention and Disease Control
Infection is prevented by avoiding direct skin contact with soil containing infective larvae. People at risk, especially children, should wear footwear when walking on areas with infected soil. Patients at risk should be identified and appropriate diagnostic tests should be performed before they begin immunosuppressive therapy.
Persons in household contact with patients are not at risk for infection. The proper disposal of human excreta reduces the prevalence of strongyloidiasis substantially.
No accepted prophylactic regimen exists and no vaccine is available.
Standard precautions should be observed for patients hospitalized with strongyloidiasis. Wearing gloves and gowns and diligent handwashing hygiene is important for those coming into potential contact with the patient’s feces.16
- Early detection and effective treatment of S. stercoralis infection.
- Screening of patients who are at risk for chronic strongyloidiasis before immunosuppressive treatment is started, especially with corticosteroids.
- Preventive chemotherapy (PC) for S. stercoralis infection is not yet recommended by WHO, nor is it included in the strategy for soil-transmitted helminth control. However, consistent side benefits on S. stercoralis prevalence have been demonstrated after lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis elimination programs that used repeated PC with ivermectin/albendazole or with ivermectin alone.36
- Proper evaluation of treatment using stool examination (with highly sensitive tests such as the Baermann technique, filter paper culture, and agar plate culture) and specific IgG serology follow-up for 1 to 2 years.37
- Overseas presumptive treatment programs in refugee populations from countries where intestinal parasites are endemic (hookworm, Trichuris trichiura, Ascaris lumbricoides, and S. stercoralis).38
- The installation and use of safe waste disposal systems still remains important.39
- Wearing footwear could interrupt transmission of strongyloidiasis, but the cultural acceptability of footwear is low, particularly in hot climates, so other environmental control methods should be assessed.40 People who don’t have shoes often don’t have chairs, and then the buttocks are an additional target.
- Detect anthelmintic resistance at an early stage. Various in vivo and in vitro methods are available for assessing the efficacy of anthelmintics, and specific laboratory methods can be applied to confirm a suspicion of resistance in the field—for example, as described in the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) study recommendations and guidelines.41–43
The study by Forrer et al44 showed that community-based single-dose ivermectin treatment for S. stercoralis plus sanitation effectively reduced the infection risk in rural communities in Cambodia, with over 85% of villagers remaining negative 1 year after treatment. Infection control is feasible and highly beneficial, particularly in combination with improved sanitation.44
Khieu et al45 found that individuals with a latrine at home were infected with S. stercoralis significantly less frequently than those without one. The calculated population-attributable risk would be reduced by 39% if all participants used a latrine for defecation.11,45
Croker and She46 noted that the high prevalence of eosinophilia among persons with latent Strongyloides infection in Los Angeles County highlights the importance of screening individuals with eosinophilia in whom more common causes have been ruled out.
The StrongNet,36 an international network for improving diagnosis and access to treatment for strongyloidiasis control, advocates better and field-friendly diagnosis as well as the availability of ivermectin on a large scale for the control of strongyloidiasis in endemic areas. Following the efforts of this network, ivermectin has recently been included in the WHO’s Essential Medicines List for the treatment of strongyloidiasis; the ultimate goal is to develop a public health control strategy and to include S. stercoralis in the WHO’s PC strategy for soil-transmitted helminthiasis.
Acute and chronic strongyloidiasis have a good prognosis. However, untreated infection can persist for the remainder of the patient’s life, due to the autoinfection cycle. A patient’s prolonged absence from an endemic area is no guarantee of freedom from infection. Severe disseminated infection is commonly a fatal event, and it is often unresponsive to therapy.
In chronic strongyloidiasis, immunosuppression poses a risk for accelerated autoinfection. This may result in a sepsis-like syndrome, S. stercoralis hyperinfection, and the dissemination of larvae to distant organs such as the central nervous system, causing S. stercoralis–associated meningitis.47
Abbreviations Used in This Guideline
||acquired immune deficiency syndrome
||agar plate culture
||central nervous system
||enzyme-linked immunosorbent essay
||formalin-ether concentration technique
||human immunodeficiency virus
||human T-lymphotropic virus type I
||modified formalin-ether concentration technique
||nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
||neglected tropical disease
||preventive (anthelmintic) chemotherapy*
||polymerase chain reaction
||real-time polymerase chain reaction
||syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone
||spontaneous tube sedimentation
||World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology
||white blood cell (count)
||World Gastroenterology Organisation
||World Health Organization
*World Health Assembly resolution of 2013 on NTDs (WHA 66.12) definition: preventive chemotherapy means large-scale preventive treatment against helminthiases and trachoma with safe, single-dose, quality-assured medicines.
†The main species that infect people are the roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.16
1. Bisoffi Z, Buonfrate D, Montresor A, et al. Strongyloides stercoralis:
a plea for action. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2013;7:e2214.
2. Knopp S, Mohammed KA, Rollinson D, et al. Changing patterns of soil-transmitted helminthiases in Zanzibar in the context of national helminth control programs. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2009;81:1071–1078.
3. Anselmi M, Buonfrate D, Guevara Espinoza A, et al. Mass administration of ivermectin for the elimination of onchocerciasis significantly reduced and maintained low the prevalence of Strongyloides stercoralis
in Esmeraldas, Ecuador. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015;9:e0004150.
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