Prevalence of parasitic contamination of raw vegetables in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, southern Thailand.

Chuchard Punsawad
Chuchard Punsawad
Mahidol University
Nonthapan Phasuk
Nonthapan Phasuk
School of Medicine
Salt Lake City | United States
Parnpen Viriyavejakul
Parnpen Viriyavejakul
Mahidol University

BMC Public Health 2019 Jan 8;19(1):34. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Department of Tropical Pathology, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, 10400, Thailand.

Background: Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are major public health problems in poor and developing countries that require fecal contamination of the environment for transmission. The consumption of raw vegetables without proper washing is one of the main routes of intestinal parasite acquisition. Therefore, this study was designed to detect the prevalence of intestinal parasitic contamination in commonly consumed raw vegetables sold in three central open-air markets in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, southern Thailand.

Methods: A total of 265 fresh vegetable samples consisting of peppermint, lettuce, coriander, leek, gotu kola, celery, Chinese cabbage, culantro, Thai basil, and Chinese morning glory were purchased from three central open-air markets in the Mueang, Thasala and Sichon districts from December 2016 to March 2017. Each sample was washed with physiological saline, shaken for 15 min, and then allowed to sediment. Finally, sedimentation was performed via the sedimentation concentration technique and examined using light microscopy for the detection of pathogenic parasites.

Results: The overall prevalence of parasitic contamination was 35.1% (93/265). The most predominant parasite was hookworms (42.9%), followed by Strongyloides stercoralis (10.6%), Trichuris trichiura (2.6%), Ascaris lumbricoides (2.6%), and Toxocara spp. (2.6%). The highest level of contamination was found in celery, with a prevalence rate of 63.3% (19/30), while the lowest contamination level was found in Chinese morning glory, with a prevalence rate of 2.0% (2/30). The prevalence of intestinal parasite contamination in Mueang district (51.5%) was significantly higher than that in Thasala district (17.9%) and Sichon district (30.6%) (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: The results of the present study demonstrate that consumption of vegetables with parasite contamination in this area represents a potential route for the transmission of parasitic infection, particularly hookworm infection. Therefore, it is necessary for health authorities to educate consumers about the proper washing of vegetables prior to consumption. Preventive methods such as wearing gloves and washing hands after handling vegetables should also be advocated to sellers who are at risk of acquiring STH infections via skin penetration.

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