Background: Giardiasis is a common diarrhoeal disease caused by the protozoan Giardia duodenalis. It is prevalent in low-income countries in the context of inadequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and is frequently co-endemic with neglected tropical diseases such as soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections. Large-scale periodic deworming programmes are often implemented in these settings; however, there is limited evidence for the impact of regular anthelminthic treatment on G. duodenalis infection. Additionally, few studies have examined the impact of WASH interventions on G. duodenalis.
Methods: The WASH for WORMS cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in remote communities in Manufahi municipality, Timor-Leste, between 2012 and 2016. All study communities received four rounds of deworming with albendazole at six-monthly intervals. Half were randomised to additionally receive a community-level WASH intervention following study baseline. We measured G. duodenalis infection in study participants every six months for two years, immediately prior to deworming, as a pre-specified secondary outcome of the trial. WASH access and behaviours were measured using questionnaires.
Results: There was no significant change in G. duodenalis prevalence in either study arm between baseline and the final study follow-up. We found no additional benefit of the community-level WASH intervention on G. duodenalis infection (relative risk: 1.05, 95% CI: 0.72-1.54). Risk factors for G. duodenalis infection included living in a household with a child under five years of age (adjusted odds ratio, aOR: 1.35, 95% CI: 1.04-1.75), living in a household with more than six people (aOR: 1.32, 95% CI: 1.02-1.72), and sampling during the rainy season (aOR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.04-1.45). Individuals infected with the hookworm Necator americanus were less likely to have G. duodenalis infection (aOR: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.57-0.88).
Conclusions: Prevalence of G. duodenalis was not affected by a community WASH intervention or by two years of regular deworming with albendazole. Direct household contacts appear to play a dominant role in driving transmission. We found evidence of antagonistic effects between G. duodenalis and hookworm infection, which warrants further investigation in the context of global deworming efforts.