The National Institute of Health Research has cautioned pregnant women against eating soil due to the risk of infection.
Professor Nicholas Midzi said soil may contain roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, collectively known as Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), which are dangerous for pregnant women and unborn babies.
Zimbabwe is seeking to eliminate the risk of STH by 2030.
According to a baseline survey conducted in 2010, 5.5 percent of the population was infected, a figure that dropped to 0.7 percent in 2018 following targeted interventions.
However, disruptions caused by Covid-19 have contributed to an increase in the prevalence of STH, which stood at 1.9 percent in 2021.
“Currently, Manicaland is the highest burdened province with 4.4 percent prevalence while at baseline in 2010 Mashonaland East recorded the highest prevalence of 18.3 percent,” said Prof Midzi.
“For infected girls and women of reproductive age, blood loss exacerbates iron deficiency anaemia and increases the risk of maternal and infant mortality and low birth weight.
“Infected children are nutritionally and physically impaired.”
To control the infections, Zimbabwe has over the years conducted periodic deworming to eliminate infecting worms using albendazole and mebendazole.
Prof Midzi said the treatment is accompanied by health education to prevent re-infection while authorities look into providing improved sanitation to reduce soil contamination with infective eggs