The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has initiated a third clinical trial of Ujiplus, a fortified herbal formulation among children infected with schistosomiasis in Mbita, Homa Bay County in efforts to boost the elimination of roundworms and hookworms in children.
The ongoing exercise involves targeted school-going children infected with schistosomiasis in Mbita Division along the shores of Lake Victoria in Homa Bay County. On Thursday, 8th, July 2021 the team headed by Prof. Maritim Songok, schools, parents, and officials from the Ministry of Health shared their experiences with the media on the effects of this KEMRI’s new homegrown local herbal with the potential to change the approach to child deworming in Africa.
Ujiplus is a herbal formulation designed to be taken as a school meal snack for both nutrition and deworming. Other earlier clinical trials among school children were done in Nandi and Kirinyaga County and have showed that Ujiplus was not only very effective in deworming school children and increasing their nutritional indicators (weight, Hb etc) but also cleared ringworms, a common malady among Kenya’s children.
Schistosomiasis or bilharzia and intestinal worms (helminths) are of major public health problem in Kenya and Africa. Their highest burden is among school-aged children causing malnutrition, anemia and retarded growth. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) passed a resolution for large-scale mass deworming of school children using the drug albendazole for helminths and praziquantal for schistosomiasis. Africa countries, including Kenya, has taken the schools deworming call in earnest. By 2019, more than 10 million Kenya children were being dewormed annually with the drugs through school-based deworming programs.
The schools deworming program has largely been successful. There is however an underlying gap. Children six years and below, who are the most at risk are left out of the schistosomiasis deworming campaign because there is no currently acceptable child formulation of praziquantal ( the currently available formulation is toxic to children), although another KEMRI study is working towards this end. For albendazole, it is not recommended for children under two years.
In addition, the current school deworming programs has little direct focus on child malnutrition, a very common malady among Kenya’s rural school children. If anything, it is often recommended that the deworming drugs should be taken with meals. It is for this reason that Ujiplus addresses the urgent need of child deworming alternatives that is not only effective, safe, affordable, and inclusive but also directly enhances child nutrition status.