In Brazil, millions of people are infected with intestinal worms. It makes them lethargic, slow learners and to have attention deficiency and they appear to accept their fate – knowing nothing better. Although there are effective drugs to treat worm infections, they’re not universally available and can’t prevent future infections. Now a team of scientists are trying to develop a vaccine against one of the most damaging parasites, hookworm. It will be the first vaccine against a multi-cellular organism. In this documentary produced for the BBC we look at the situation and the ways in which change is happening. 58-year-old fisherman Joao Conceicao Silva has grown up in Marau in northern Brazil. He knows the symptoms of one of the main health complaints in the town only too well. “Everybody has worms. I feel them on my skin. They start biting. It stings. I scratch and soon there are small lumps, then it begins.
You feel sick in the stomach, throw up and there are the tiny worms. If it is not treated, it goes on to make you tired. Makes your body weak. The stomach gets more and more worms and the person dies. Specially this kind of worm”. He has lost count of the number of times he has had worms. For him, it’s just a fact of life – along with being poor and struggling to make ends meet. Joao and his family live in a very simple house they built themselves, which he believes is partly the cause of his problems. He shows us his cistern, which he built himself. The water is not good, but they drink it. They boil the water to drink because there’s no other choice. The worms come from the water. Access to clean water and education about how these worms are transmitted are essential for his communities’ development.