Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences
What Is Ascariasis?
Ascariasis is an infection in humans caused by parasitic roundworms called Ascaris lumbricoides. This infection is relatively common - the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 billion people suffer from Ascariasis worldwide. That's about 1 infection in every 7 people!
Humans become infected by ingesting eggs through consumption of contaminated food or water. Infections are more commonly found in areas with poor sanitation, especially in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
Once eggs are ingested, they hatch in the small intestines then larvae move into the bloodstream and relocate to the lungs, where they stay until they fully mature. Once they reach maturity, they are coughed up and swallowed, where they return to the stomach and small intestines and lay eggs. Some eggs are then excreted in feces and some continue the life cycle within the host, repeating the process.
Symptoms of Ascariasis
Once a person is infected, they don't always display symptoms! When symptoms are present, they vary based on the life stage of the worms and the intensity of the infection.
- When the worms are in the lungs, they may cause coughing, gagging, difficulty breathing, wheezing, or vomit with visible worms.
- When the worms are in the intestines, they may cause nausea, vomiting, irregular bowel movements, stomach pain, weight loss or malnutrition, or visible worms in vomit or stool.
- Other possible symptoms include fatigue, fever, bowel blockages, pancreatitis, and inflammation. Worms may accumulate in other parts of the body, causing problems based on their location.
Since none of these symptoms sound like they'd be fun to experience, we'll look at how Ascariasis is treated. Some minor cases will go away on their own, while others require an anti-parasitic medication. Examples include albendazole, ivermectin, and mebendazole, and these usually clear infections within 1-3 days of treatment. Possible side effects from this treatment include abdominal pain and diarrhea, but most people will fully recover from a minor infection after they are treated.
More serious cases may require surgery to treat. If there are a lot of worms, surgery can be used to remove them from the body or to repair any damage that was done.
We've learned that Ascaris lumbricoides infections (also called Ascariasis) are caused by parasitic roundworms that are ingested with contaminated water or food. It is estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide are infected with this specific parasite. Larvae live in the lungs until they mature, and after maturity, they live in the intestines. Symptoms vary based on location and severity of the infection. When in the lungs, they may cause coughing, gagging, or difficulty breathing, and when in the intestines, they may cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, weight loss, or irregular bowel movements. None of these things sound fun, but luckily Ascariasis can easily be treated with anti-parasite medications. Minor cases can be eliminated in a couple of days, but major cases may require surgery, either to remove the worms or to repair damage caused by them.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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