Helminthiasis Causes & Symptoms

Soil-transmitted helminths, commonly known as worms, are the most common infection in the world. According to WHO, every second person is infected by worms every year. A condition, in which worms live and breed in the body, is called helminthiasis.


What Is Helminthiasis?

Helminthiasis is a microparasitical human and animal infectious disease caused by one or more types of intestinal parasitic worms:

  • Roundworms, or nematodes (Necator atepsapis or Ancylostoma duodenale, Ascaris, lumbricoides).
  • Tapeworms (cestodes).
  • Flatworms (flukes, trematodes).
  • Typically, worms live in the gastrointestinal tract, but can be also found in the liver or other organs.

How Do People Get The Parasite Worm Infection?

Infected people excrete helminth eggs in their feces, which can then contaminate the soil in places with poor sanitation. Other people may become infected by ingesting eggs or larvae in contaminated food (A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura), or through skin penetration of infective larvae in the soil (nematode). The largest number of soil-transmitted helminth infections live in sub-Saharan Africa, America, China and Asia. Soil-transmitted helminths, living in the body, exhibit a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Anal itching.
  • Itching and vaginal discharge in girls (it happens when pinworms get into the child’s vagina).
  • Intestinal manifestations (diarrhea, abdominal pain).
  • General malaise and weakness.
  • Poor appetite, weight loss even with high-calorie diet.

Most families with young children have to deal with worms from time to time. This disease is very common. Preschool children make up 10% -20% of the 2 billion people around the globe who are infected with helminths. Most often, children get pinworms.

Children Suffering from Pinworms Infections

About a month after swallowing an adult worm, new pinworms hatch from eggs in the body. Pinworms lay their eggs near the anus. They usually do it at night, which causes characteristic itching. If the child scratches the skin, and then brings his or her hands to the mouth, or does not wash hands after using the toilet, eggs get back into the mouth, and a new cycle of the worms’ life begins. Eggs can also be moved to clothing, bedding, and other surfaces where other people can catch them. Eggs can survive up to two weeks on surfaces. Adult worms can live for 6 weeks.

Pets as Helminth Parasites Transmitters

Dogs and cats do not cause pinworm infection in humans – they do not have pinworms. However, they carry other types of worms, that’s why pets need regular anthelminthic therapy, and you should avoid unnecessary close contact with the baby (kissing the animal’s muzzle, cuddling, pulling the tail, etc.). Also, do not put an animal in bed.

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