An Animated Cartoon against Parasitic Worm Infections

Koko discovers the infection ways of parasitic worms thanks to magic glasses giv

Koko discovers the infection ways of parasitic worms thanks to magic glasses given by a medical doctor.

The educational animation film ’Koko et les lunettes magiques’ aims to strengthen the awareness of school-aged children and their families in Côte d’Ivoire against parasitic worm infections by showing them simple, but effective preventive hygiene practices. The animation film is the key element in an intervention study in western Côte d’Ivoire conducted by Swiss TPH, the Centre Suisse des Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire and the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire. The film has been tested for efficacy in schools and the research team is evaluating its potential for further use in French-speaking western Africa. The methodological approach used to develop the animated cartoon and the results of the pilot testing are published on PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

’Koko et les lunettes magiques’ tells the story of a boy who discovers the many ways in which parasitic worms infect people’s bodies and make them suffer from abdominal pain and diarrhoea. The animated cartoon in French addresses children and their parents in Côte d’Ivoire to raise their awareness and and make them minimise the risk to become infected by parasitic worm through simple, but effective preventive actions such as using latrines, washing hands after the toilet and covering food-dishes.

The 15-minutes movie has been developed by the Abidjan-based cartoon company Africa Toon in collaboration with a scientific team from Swiss TPH, the Centre Suisse des Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS), long-standing partner organisation of Swiss TPH, and the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire. Giovanna Raso, scientific project leader at Swiss TPH: "It is well known that preventive chemotherapy is the main strategy to reduce parasitic worm infections like soil-transmitted helminthiasis and schistosomiasis. However, if hygiene behaviour has not been changed, re-infections with these parasites can occur rapidly."

Pilot tested in schools

In a first step, the Swiss TPH team did formative research that allowed them to better understand the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding hygiene in the context of parasitic worm infections of school-aged children in Côte d’Ivoire. "This allowed us to identify several key messages for the animated cartoon to specifically address local knowledge gaps," says Raso. After the film production in 2015, the animated cartoon was pilot tested in eight selected schools and further fine-tuned. The methodological approach used to develop the animated cartoon and the results of the pilot testing are published on PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The overall-aim of the study is to help change behaviour and thus minimise the risk to become infected and suffer from parasitic worm infections.

Pilot testing of the educational film revealed that, in the short term, children grasped and kept key messages. "Most of the children who watched the cartoon reported to have liked it a lot," explains Raso. "They could retain the key-messages provided by the cartoon."

Great Potential

"The health educational tool has great potential for application in the official school curricula," she continues. "Furthermore, there is interest from the Ivorian Ministry of Health to use this animated cartoon as a complement to ongoing schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases control activities in Côte d’Ivoire. The tool can be validated in other French speaking west African countries, too."

About Soil-transmitted Helminth Infections

Approximately 1.5 billion people are infected with at least one of the three types of soil-transmitted helminths: A. lumbricoides, hookworm and T. trichiura. They are caused by parasitic worms which are transmitted by eggs present in human feces, which contaminate the soil in areas where sanitation is poor. Infected children are physically, nutritionally and cognitively impaired. Parasitic worm infections are a major public health concern among the poor and most vulnerable populations in Asia, Sub-Sahara Africa and the Americas.

Leading Institution in Helminth Drug Development

Swiss TPH is one of the leading institutions worldwide in discovering novel treatments and conducting clinical trials in the area of parasitic worms. On 7 and 8 December 2017, Swiss TPH hosts an international symposium on the topic of "Helminth Infection - From Transmission to Control" in Basel, Switzerland.