Worms! Worms! Worms! Are they inside you?

It is a known fact that parasites are organisms that live in and feed off a living host. They enter the body of the host through whatever means available and live off their host. There are a lot of parasites that live inside both the body of humans and animals. Some of them include worms like flatworms, roundworms, flukes, tapeworms, hookworms, just to mention a few. When these worms enter the body, they bring parasitic infection in their wake and this can be very harmful to the body.

Common, Itchy Foot Foe – the Hookworm
The hookworm is a type of soil transmitted helminth, or intestinal parasite that is transmitted through contaminated soil entering the body of the host through their feet. Adult hookworms thrive in the intestines of humans feeding on the food and walls of the stomach. The stage at which the hookworm can enter the body through the skin is at the larval stage. The larvae move from the skin to the lungs and then the trachea where they are swallowed.

Hookworm larvae mature into adult worms in the intestines where they attach to the intestinal walls and lay eggs, continuing their life cycle. Hookworms in the body cause itching and a localized rash where the hookworm larvae enter the skin which is usually the feet. It also cause itchy or painful allergic reaction as the larvae moves through the body, and this allergic reaction are called cuntaneous larva migrans. Some other symptoms of hookworm infection include diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal pain, anemia, weight loss, etc. This infection needs urgent medical treatment.

Hiding in the Meat Aisle – the Tape Worm
Tapeworm is common in animals including cattle and pigs (and recently detected in salmon), but relatively rare in humans. Tapeworms attach themselves to the host’s intestinal wall, and grow segments full of eggs (up to 50,000 each) that are excreted in the host’s stool, creating an environment perfect for replication.

When the host animal is meant for consumption, the tapeworm finds itself in the grocery store aisle. If the meat is properly cooked, the larvae is killed. If not, the larvae will hatch and attach itself to the intestinal wall of its human host. For many people, tapeworm infection is asymptomatic. Common symptoms include stomachache, diarrhea, or weight loss, then after a few years, the tapeworm dies, and the host simply passes the tapeworm. If detected, tapeworms can be killed using a proven medication.

A Long-Term Companion – Round Worms
Round worm is another parasitic worm that is harmful to man. They can be transferred to the body of the host through mosquitoes which can then live comfortably inside the host for as long as eight years while producing millions of larvae during that period. One quarter of the world’s population is infected with roundworms, including approximately 4 million people in the United States. The majority of people affected are asymptomatic. Patients who are newly infected may have pulmonary symptoms such as coughing and wheezing and will experience abdominal symptoms as the worms grow inside.

Big Name, Serious Worm – Gnathostoma Spinigerum
Gnathostoma Spinigerum is a parasite that lives in eels and can spread to humans who eat the raw or undercooked fish. While Gnathostoma Spinigerum is common in Thailand, and does occur in the United States, it is relatively rare here and limited to those eating contaminated fish. However, a team of U.S. researchers found the microscopic worms in 28 percent of eels sold live in U.S. markets.

G. spinigerum eggs hatch in fresh water, and larvae are consumed by water fleas. The fleas are then eaten by fish, who carry the worms with into the stomachs of those who eat them. The larvae go through the stomach wall and migrate around the hosts body. G. spinigerum don’t mature in the human body but can still cause damage as they wander around. Typically, infestation manifests as inflammation under the skin, however, significant tissue damage and organ failure can occur if the parasite is left untreated.

Overall, the CDC reports that millions of people in the United States are affected by parasites each year (https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/). Call us or come into iCare if you suspect you or your child is affected by a parasite. We will help you treat and solve the parasite mystery.