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Report: More Poor Americans Infected With Worms Than Thought

As many as 23 percent of inner city African Americans are infected with roundworm, according to a new article published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Large numbers of the poorest Americans living in the United States are suffering from some of the same parasitic infections that affect the poor in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, according to the the editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal.

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Professor Peter Hotez of George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute said roundworms, threadworms and tapeworms are more common than believed and often under-reported because the tropical parasites infect poor children living in inner cities and rural America.

Tapeworms, for example, are the leading cause of seizures among U.S. Hispanic children, wrote Hotez, adding that up to 2 percent of America's 35 million Hispanic residents may be infected. Another parasite, toxoplasmosis, is an important cause of congenital birth defects among Mexican Americans and African Americans.

He said a study released in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 14 percent of the U.S. population is infected with Toxocara roundworms, which dogs and cats can pass to people. Roundworms are particularly prevalent in urban playgrounds and may contribute to asthma. In addition to urban areas, these diseases are also present in Appalachia and other poor rural communites across the U.S.