Parasitic worms – the unwanted cohabitants of our organism

Parasitic worms are worm-like organisms, living in and feeding on hosts, receiving nourishment and protection while disrupting the hosts‘ nutrient absorption. Parasitic worms can live inside humans and other animals. Once inside the body, they can cause a large variety of diseases which, depending on the state of the host’s immune system, can range from general discomfort to serious illness. Worms most commonly live in the digestive tract, but they can also be found throughout the entire body. No organ is immune to parasitic infections.

Worms can enter the body in many different ways. Human parasitic infections can, for instance, be caused by absorption of contaminated food or water or by contact with animal feces (that’s why it is important to wash your hands with soap and hot water). The route of transmission, the path of infection and the symptoms vary depending on the type of parasite.

Tapeworms

The tapeworm is a parasitic flatworm. Eating undercooked meat from infected animals (mostly beef or pork) is the main cause of tapeworm infections in humans. Although tapeworms in humans usually cause few symptoms and are easily treated, they can sometimes cause serious, life-threatening problems. That’s why it is important to recognize the symptoms of a tapeworm infection.

What are the symptoms of a tapeworm infection?

Infections with beef or pork tapeworms will usually lead to a noticed increase in appetite because the parasite is taking a large amount of nutrients from the host’s body. This in turn can cause severe deficiency syndromes, which is why it is important to consult a doctor when you experience these symptoms. Other indicators for an infection include, amongst others, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and general discomfort.

How can a tapeworm infection be diagnosed?

If you suspect you have tapeworms, you should see your doctor. Because there are different types of worms and tapeworms that can cause infections, and because you may have only one or two symptoms that are rather general (such as stomach pain and weight loss), diagnosing a tapeworm infection is indeed difficult. If worms are not detected in the stool, your doctor may order a blood test to check for antibodies produced to fight tapeworm infection. Once the infection is diagnosed, it can be treated with anthelmintic medication.

For more information on different types of parasitic worm infections, stay tuned for upcoming blog articles.

 

Am 23. Dezember 2012 in: infections, parasites von Björn Snoek
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