Qualitative evidence suggests that inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) may affect diarrheal and helminthic infection in women disproportionately. We systematically searched PubMed in June 2014 (updated 2016) and the WHO website, for relevant articles.
Articles dealing with the public health relevance of helminthic and diarrheal diseases, and highlighting the role of gender in WASH were included. Where possible, we carried out a meta-analysis.
In studies of individuals 5 years or older, cholera showed lower prevalence in males (OR 0.56; 95% CI 0.34–0.94), while Schistosoma mansoni (1.38; 95% CI 1.14–1.67), Schistosoma japonicum (1.52; 95% CI 1.13–2.05), hookworm (1.43; 95% CI 1.07–1.89) and all forms of infectious diarrhea (1.21; 95% CI 1.06–1.38) showed a higher prevalence in males. When studies included all participants, S. mansoni and S. japonicum showed higher prevalence with males (OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.27–1.55 and 1.84; 95% CI 1.27–2.67, respectively). Prevalence of Trichiuris and hookworm infection showed effect modification with continent.
Evidence of gender differences in infection may reflect differences in gender norms, suggesting that policy changes at the regional level may help ameliorate gender related disparities in helminthic and diarrheal disease prevalence.