In a bid to boost the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) scientists from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) developed a type of fortified porridge flour that can protect children from the adverse effects of intestinal worms.
The flour (known as UjiPlus) is fortified with pawpaw extracts and is thus able to effectively ‘fight’ the worms in the body without harming affected people.
Pawpaw seeds are known to have a natural substance that is able to expel worms and other parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them without causing significant damage to the host.
The scientists, led by Dr Elijah Songok – principal research officer at Kemri - sought to harness this beneficial effect through the fortified flour.
The trials for UjiPlus were conducted in three primary schools in Nandi County.
One school was given porridge made using the fortified flour daily, while another was just given plain porridge.
In the third school, the children were given deworming tablets as is usually done in high risk areas.
The results showed that children who took UjiPlus had fewer round worm eggs and increased levels of haemoglobin (indicating a lower risk of anaemia).
They also had reduced ringworms compared to children given deworming tablets and plain porridge.
Nevertheless, the study will have to be replicated at a wider scale (involving many schools) before the findings can be generalised.
With the increasing evidence on the role that the fruit plays in ridding the body of intestinal worms, Dr Sultan Matendechero, head of the NTDs unit at the Ministry of Health noted that children and even adults in areas with a high prevalence of intestinal worms should be encouraged to consume pawpaws in large quantities.
Instead of chewing the seeds, nutritionists note that people could just swallow the seeds with the pawpaw’s ‘yellow flesh’ or do it with water.
Eating a high fibre diet with lots of water will also help to flush out the dead parasites from the body at a faster pace.
Aside from pawpaws, pumpkins are also good at paralysing worms in the lower intestine.
Coconut oil is also known for its antimicrobial effects that can help rid the body of parasites, unhealthy bacteria and fungi.
Cloves are also good at eliminating parasite eggs.
Proper sanitation facilities are a primary prevention strategy for intestinal worms (roundworms, whipworms and hookworms) as they are usually transmitted by eggs present in faeces of infected individuals, which end up contaminating the soil in areas where sanitation is poor.