Parasitic organisms that inhabit the large intestine are called colon parasites. This article provides some information about these organisms.
The large intestine is the last part of the human digestive system, and is mainly responsible for storing food waste and reabsorbing water. Only a few vitamins are absorbed here; but the large intestine hosts beneficial bacteria, which are responsible for fermentation of food waste. It is the action of these bacteria that convert the food waste to fecal matter.
However, the colon or large intestine provides an optimal habitat for parasites, which may not produce symptoms for a long time. An accumulation of waste in the colon is harmful to the body. It can be more dangerous if the colon is infected with parasites. Even though parasites can live in any of the body parts, they prefer the intestinal wall due to the favorable environment.
What are Colon Parasites?
Parasites are organisms that live in or on the body of the host, from where they derive nutrients for their survival. In most cases, parasites cause harm to the host in the long run. Colon parasites are living organisms that live in the large intestine of humans, and thrive on the nutrients in the human body. Apart from extracting nutrients from the body, these parasites affect the permeability of the intestinal wall, and release harmful toxins.
The most common groups of colon parasites are helminths and protozoa. While helminths are worms (tapeworms, roundworms, etc.) which possess many cells, protozoa are single-celled organisms. Most of the adult worms are visible to the naked eye, but protozoa (like giardia and cryptosporidium) are microscopic. The single-celled organisms multiply rapidly, causing serious infections. In most cases, parasitic infection is caused by ingestion of uncooked or unwashed food, drinking contaminated water, and skin absorption through contact with contaminated soil or other objects.
One of the common colon parasites in humans, roundworms belong to the phylum Nematoda. There are various species of roundworms that vary in size. While some of them are microscopic, some others may grow up to a length of around 30 inches. People residing in the tropical and subtropical regions are mostly found to be affected by roundworms.
They are the largest among the colon parasites in humans. There are numerous types of tapeworms in humans, and some of them may live up to 25 years, and grow to a length of several feet. The most common types of tapeworms include beef tapeworm, fish tapeworm, dog tapeworm, dwarf tapeworm, and pork tapeworm. In most cases, tapeworm infestation is caused by ingestion of contaminated and undercooked pork, beef, or fish.
Hookworms too have different species, and the most common among them are Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. They generally enter the human body by penetrating the skin, and may cause severe anemia; as they suck blood from the intestinal wall and damage the mucosa.
One of the most commonly found colon protozoan is Toxoplasma gondii, which is generally transmitted to humans from dogs and cats. This colon parasite can cause toxoplasmosis, and cause symptoms, like fever, chills, and headache. In case of pregnant women with toxoplasmosis, severe birth defects may occur.
Giardia lamblia is a common colon protozoa that enter the human body through contaminated water and food. They cause giardiasis, which is characterized by diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.
Besides these parasites, there are various other living organisms that infest the human colon. They include protozoa, like Entamoeba histolytica, Isospora belli, and Cyclospora cayetanensis; and worms like Trichinella, fluke parasites, fungi, virus, and bacteria. The most common colon parasite symptoms are abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, bloating, flatulence, fatigue, weight loss, and itching near anus. The symptoms may vary with the particular type of infection, but some of the affected people may not experience any symptom for a long time.
Various diagnostic tests are conducted to determine the type of infection. Once the type is detected, relevant treatment is prescribed. Medication used to treat colon parasites are mebendazole, thiabendazole, metronidazole, and praziquantel. It is also claimed that colon cleansing is beneficial to eliminate these intestinal parasites. Even herbal medicines are also used to get rid of colon parasites. However, it is always better to prevent the condition, through proper hygienic practices.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.