Malnutrition, anaemia, and gut parasites are commonly interrelated. Using the Nippostrongylus brasiliensis-rat model, the effect of iron and protein deficiency on the efficacy of benzimidazole anthelmintics was studied. It was demonstrated that the anthelmintics mebendazole and fenbendazole were significantly less effective in eradicating parasites when animals were deficient in iron and protein. This decreased efficacy of anthelmintics in iron and protein deficiency could not be overcome by intraperitoneal administration of the drug. Since nutritional deficiencies may act via impairment of the immune response, anthelmintic efficacy was determined in adequately nourished rats treated with the immunosuppressive drug dexamethasone. A similar decrease in efficacy of mebendazole was shown when these animals were treated with dexamethasone. Thus it is possible that lowered anthelmintic efficacy in iron and protein deficient animals is mediated by immune deficiency. These findings may be relevant to anthelmintic programmes in malnourished communities.
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