Ascariasis is a common type of roundworm infection that primarily affects the intestine. It is prevalent in regions with poor sanitation worldwide, where individuals may carry the parasite responsible for the infection. These parasites rely on the human body as a host to progress from larvae or eggs to fully grown adult worms. The adult worms can reach lengths exceeding one foot (30 centimeters) and are capable of reproduction.
Ascariasis is classified as a soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infection since it spreads through contaminated soil. While many infected individuals experience mild cases and remain asymptomatic, a severe infestation can lead to significant symptoms and complications.
Generally, treatment is necessary only for infections that cause noticeable symptoms, as some cases of ascariasis may resolve spontaneously over time.
Most people who have ascariasis don’t experience any signs or symptoms. However, if the infection becomes more severe, it can cause various symptoms depending on which part of the body is affected.
After being swallowed, the ascariasis eggs hatch within the small intestine, and the resulting larvae migrate through the bloodstream or lymphatic system towards the lungs. During this stage, individuals may experience symptoms resembling asthma or pneumonia, including:
After a period of 10 to 14 days residing in the lungs, the larvae proceed towards the throat, where they are expelled through coughing and subsequently ingested when swallowed.
In the case of mild or moderate ascariasis, the larvae develop into adult worms within the small intestine, where they reside until their natural lifespan ends. This intestinal infestation can lead to various symptoms, including:
However, when a person is heavily infested with a large number of worms, more severe symptoms may arise, such as:
Roundworm infestations may initially be asymptomatic when only a small number of worms are present. However, in severe instances, these parasites can cause partial or complete obstruction of the small intestine, leading to potential complications such as pancreatic inflammation and even life-threatening conditions.
Ascariasis does not pass from one person to another directly. An individual must instead come into touch with water that is contaminated with ascariasis or soil that has ascariasis eggs combined with pig or human excrement. In certain underdeveloped nations, human waste is mixed with the soil in yards, ditches, and fields, or it is utilized as fertilizer because of inadequate hygienic conditions. Infected pig or chicken liver that has not been fried can likewise cause infection in humans.
Small children frequently play in the dirt, and if they put their dirty fingers in their mouths, it could cause an illness. Unwashed produce cultivated in contaminated soil has also been shown to spread ascariasis eggs.
The complete lifecycle of ascariasis worms, from the ingestion of eggs to the deposition of new eggs, generally spans a duration of approximately two to three months. Once inside the body, these worms have the ability to reside and survive for a period of one to two years.
Ascariasis risk factors include:
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