Geophagy and parasitic infections in pregnant women attending an ante-natal care clinic in Thika Hospital, Kiambu County, Kenya

  • AW Mutura
  • JO Wesongah
  • GM Mkoji


Background: Geophagy, a regular and deliberate habit of eating non-food substances is practiced  worldwide and in sub-Saharan Africa. Pregnant women and children commonly eat soil. Soil consumption exposes one to the risk of consuming eggs of  soil-transmitted intestinal parasites, which may cause severe health consequences for pregnant women and children.
Objective: Determine the association between geophagy and parasitic infections in pregnant women attending Thika Level 5 Hospital.
Design: Cross sectional hospital based study.
Setting: Ante-natal care clinic at Thika Level-5 Hospital.
Subjects: Four hundred and ten pregnant women.
Results: Twenty six point one percent of the studied women practiced geophagy, majority of whom did it occasionally. Ninety two point five percent preferred soil purchased from market places. Eleven percent of the study women examined were infected with Entamoeba histolytica (8.8%), Trichuris trichiura (1%), Ascaris lumbricoides (1%), Schistosoma mansoni (0.7%), and Strongyloides stercoralis (0.2%). None of the five intestinal parasites detected were however, associated with geophagy, P>0.05. Nevertheless, only the E. histolytica infection (8.4%) was found in women who practised geophagy. Gestation period was associated with E. histolytica infection, p=0.049. Those who ate soil from the garden were more likely to have E. histolytica infection, p=0.026.Closely associated to geophagy were education at   p=0.009, feeding problems at p=0.000 and history of practising geophagyat p=0.000.
Conclusion: While geophagy was not associated with parasitic infections in pregnant women, geophagy was found to have a significant association with education, history of geophagy and the feeding problems. Besides, pregnancy trimester and the source of soil were found to beassociated with E. histolytica  infection.

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eISSN: 0012-835X