Inspiration for this project comes from the work of the American parasitologist Norman Stoll. Dr Stoll researched worm infections, including work in China, Panama and Puerto Rico, in the first half of the 20th century. His 1946 presidential address to the American Society of Parasitologists posed the question: Just how much human helminthiasis is there in the world? The resultant paper, This Wormy World (Stoll, 1947), was the first systematic attempt to measure the worldwide impact of human parasitism by helminths, and remains probably one of the most widely quoted publications in helminthology.
Building on Stoll's work, in 1998 the WHO Collaborating Centre for the Epidemiology of Intestinal Parasites at the University of Oxford and WHO launched an initiative aimed at collating the available survey data as both a database and graphical tool. This had the twofold aim of describing, where possible, the prevalence across Africa and highlighting areas for which further information is required.
This initiative sought to develop prevalence maps using geographical information systems (GIS) for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. These maps were initially developed at the second administrative level, typically defined as district, because it was considered the lowest level for which data could be expected to exist.
Over the years, the project was expanded to geo-position survey data to actual location due to the increased use of global positioning systems (GPS) in field surveys and the increased availability of online electronic gazetteers. At the same time, more and more worm surveys were being conducted, especially at national and sub-national levels. These two features led to the development of an expanded and updated Global Atlas of Helminth Infections.