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Ascariasis – Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Ascariasis is a human disease. It is caused by the parasitic roundworm name as Ascaris lumbricoides. Perhaps up to a quarter of the world’s population is infected, and ascariasis is particularly prevalent in tropical regions and areas with poor hygiene. Other species of the genus Ascaris are parasitic and can cause disease in domestic animals.
They can, however, be accompanied by inflammation, fever and diarrhea, and serious problems can occur if the worms migrate to other parts of the body.
Ascariasis is the most common intestinal worm infection. It is found in association with poor personal hygiene, poor sanitation. In many developing countries, human excreta are used as fertilizer, or poor sanitation facilities allow human waste to mix with local soil in yards, ditches and fields. The eggs can survive in the soil for years to re-infect community members. The eggs infect their hosts when humans eat the contaminated vegetables and fruits grown in this soil. Once in the stomach, immature worms hatch from the eggs. The larvae are transported to the lungs and then to the throat where they are swallowed. Once swallowed, they reach the intestines and turn into adult worms. During their movement through the lungs, the larvae can produce a rare form of pneumonia called eosinophilic pneumonia.
It is estimated that 1 billion people are infected worldwide. Ascariasis occurs at all ages, although children seem to be more severely affected than adults.
Although no symptoms may appear, the more worms involved in the infestation, the more severe a child’s symptoms are likely to be. Children are more likely than adults to develop gastrointestinal symptoms because they have smaller intestines and are at higher risk of developing bowel obstruction. The following symptoms can be observed in case of light infestation:
- worms in the stool
- spit worms
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- abdominal distention
- severe pain in the stomach or abdomen
- intestinal blockage
- bile duct blockage
More than 796 Ascaris lumbricoides worms weighing 550 g [19 ounces] were found at the autopsy of a 2-year-old South African girl. The worms had caused torsion and gangrene of the ileum, which was interpreted as the cause of death.
Antiparasitic drugs (anthelminthics) are the first line of treatment for ascariasis. The most common are mebendazole (Vermox), albendazole (Albenza), and pyrantel. These drugs work by killing the adult worms as well as the larvae and eggs to prevent reinfection. You may have mild gastrointestinal side effects during treatment and you may need to take several doses to get rid of the infestation completely.
Some recent studies exist in the medical literature suggesting that sun-dried papaya seeds can reduce infections by a significant factor. The adult dosage is one tablespoon of seed powder in a glass of sugar water once a week for two weeks.
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