Parasites are micro-organisms living off of other organisms or hosts for survival. The parasites include protozoa and worms which causes parasitic diseases. Intestinal worms are usually found in the gastro intestinal tract of a person during the rainy season. Some parasites do not affect the host but others grow, reproduce and release toxins, making the host sick and leading to parasitic infection. Malaria is a dangerous disease, the cause of which is parasitic infection. A number of parasitic infections occur in the US, including Trichomoniasis, Giardiasis, Cryptosporidiosis and Toxoplamosis. Different worm infections are:
- Flatworms such as tapeworm and flukes- Flatworms eat and breathe through the skin and oxygen pass through their skin. Flatworms live on the skin, mouth, gills or others outside parts of host also they live internally like the ones living in human infecting blood.
- Flukes such as blood flukes. They are able to travel through blood and lymphatics to the liver and lungs and get mature into an adult worm
- Roundworms such as Threadworms or Pinworms are very common intestinal parasites
Parasitic worms show some mild to severe symptoms in human like:
- Grinding of teeth during sleep
- Ever had food poisoning
- Pain in muscles or joints
- Having skin irritation
Medications do kill roundworms or tapeworms present in the body but not their eggs which survive for two weeks. These worms can be seen in stool or motions in toilet as well. Trematode, Cestode and Nematode are three types of parasitic infections in human in which nematode infection includes Ascariasis, trichuriasis, hookworm, enterobiasis, strongyloidiasis, filariasis and trichinosis. About 60 species of roundworms parasitize humans. According to 2005, World Health Organisation 0.807-1.221 billion humans have Ascariasis. Let us know what exactly Ascariasis is.
Ascariasis is an intestinal infection caused by one of the species of roundworm named Ascaris lumbricoides. Ascariasis is one of the most common infections caused by roundworms.
According to the reports of World Health Organisation, around one billion people are affected by Ascaris lumbricoides. The infection is common in places that lack modern sanitation. Ascariasis is transmitted through unsafe food and water. These worms mature from larvae or eggs to adult worms and reproduce by making use of our body as a host. Adult worms could be more than 30 centimeters long. Ascariasis is the most common human worm infection worldwide but it is uncommon in United States. The mild cases of the infection show no symptoms whereas when body gets infected by hundreds of worm serious symptoms and complications emerge. Young children often get this infection and are most prevalent at the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It can also occur at places where sanitation and hygiene are poor. Ascariasis also occurs in rural areas of southeast in the United States.
Ascariasis does not spread from person to person. A person needs to come in direct contact with the soil mixed with human feces containing ascaris eggs. In some developing countries, human feces could be in use as a fertilizer or some poor sanitation facilities allow human waste to get mixed with local soil in ditches and fields. Children playing in dirt can get the infection if they put dirty fingers in their mouths. It is also caused when unwashed fruits or vegetables grown in contaminated soil transmits the microscopic eggs.
Worm life cycle
- Ingestion- The microscopic Ascariasis eggs become infective while coming into contact with soil. People eating uncooked vegetables or fruits may ingest contaminated soil by chance.
- Migration- Larvae hatch from the eggs in small intestine. It penetrates the intestinal walls to travel lungs via bloodstream. It then takes about a week to mature in lungs and breaks into airway travelling to the throat where it is coughed and then swallowed.
- Maturation– In the intestines parasites grow into male or female worm. Female worm are 15 inch long and little less than 6 millimeters in diameter. Male worms are small.
- Reproduction- Both the worms meet in small intestine. Female worm produce 200000 eggs in a day. After expulsion of egg in feces, the fertilized egg has to be in soil for 18 days to become infective.
The whole process takes about two to three months where Ascariasis worms can live inside us for a year.
Many infected people do not show any symptoms. But it produces different symptoms in various stages depending on the larvae in body.
Symptoms in the lungs are:
- Roundworms in vomit
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
After spending a week in lungs larvae travel to the throat where we cough and swallow it.
- Irregular stools
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Fatigue and fever are some other symptoms experienced by people with large infestation. A proper treatment is necessary if you face all or a few symptoms. Ascariasis causes other complications like bowel obstruction and pancreatitis. Worms may cause blockage of appendix, biliary tract, inflammation and other damage in several areas of body causing restlessness and sleep problem.
How is Ascariasis diagnosed?
In heavy infestation worm could be found out while cough and vomit and it comes through other opening like mouth or nostrils. A stool test would be done to find worms in the stool after two months of its ingestion. If you are infected with male worm there would not be any egg.
Then a blood test can also be done to find the presence of increased number of white blood cells called eosinophils.
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Some imaging tests include:
- X- rays- If one is infected by so many worms then they would be visible in abdomen X-ray. A chest x-ray can also be done to reveal larvae in the lungs.
- Ultrasound- An ultrasound is done to find worms in liver or pancreas.
- CT scans or MRI- Both the tests are done to show the images of internal body structures. CT scan is used to combine the x-ray images whereas magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and strong magnetic field.
Abdominal x-rays can also be used to detect the disease. The imaging is done to
- Find out how many worms grew to maturity
- Where major worm groups are located
- Location of worms, whether they are in internal organs
The heavy infestion can also be determined by placing a still camera inside our body known as endoscopy.
How to treat Ascariasis?
Infections having no symptoms do not need treatment. In some cases Ascariasis gets fine on its own when there are no male worms to mate with female. Roundworms are usually treated with anti-parasitic medicines.
These medications prove effective in killing adult worms. Try to take them in a single dose else it may react resulting in severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. When there are heavy infestation a surgery would be needed to treat the disease. Surgery will repair the damage caused by worms and removes them permanently. Other complications which require surgery are:
- Intestinal obstruction
- Bile duct obstruction
How to prevent Ascariasis?
- Always try to maintain good hygiene to avoid infection.
- Do not come in contact with soil contaminated with human feces.
- Wash hands properly with soap or Dettol before eating or handling food.
- Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating because they may have been grown in soil fertilized with manure.
- Take extra care of young children and avoid their playing in dirt which could transmit infection in them.
Ascariasis is the most common roundworm infection worldwide with the highest infection rates in developing and warm climate countries. Always follow the preventive measure and try to use only bottled water while travelling.
Ascariasis is the common roundworm infection caused by ascaris. When the infected man pee or defecates outside in bushes the eggs gets deposited in soil and after maturing they become infective. Infected eggs could be really harmful for body so try to wash dirty hands before handling food and always wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Maintain a good hygiene and stay healthy forever.
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