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Parasitic Worms in Humans

Parasitic Worms in Humans

Parasitic worms enter the human body through direct skin contact or through the food and water that we consume, if infested with worms. They are potent enough to cause infections and diseases in the human body. Read the following article for information on the types or parasitic worms in humans, the symptoms and diseases they produce, and the possible prevention and treatment for the same.
Aastha Dogra
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Parasitic worms are organisms that live inside their hosts, and derive biological benefits from them. In humans, they live inside the body, in the digestive tract or the spinal area, and feed on the food consumed by the host. They cause weakness and disease, as the body is not able to absorb the nutrients properly due to the parasites' presence in the digestive tract. Let us understand these parasitic worms by knowing about their types, the symptoms and diseases caused by them, the preventive measures to be adopted in order to avoid them, and the treatments available to get rid of them.
There are various types of parasitic worms in humans, which are categorized under various phyla. The major ones are mentioned below.

Also known as flatworms, they are bilaterally symmetrical and have no internal cavity. They have flat bodies and there is an absence of circulatory and respiratory organs. They are parasitic and feed on other life forms. There are 173 discovered species of platyhelminthes found in humans. Under this category come the following.
Trematoda: Commonly known as flukes, they are oval-shaped and have a tough outer body layer, known as tegument, that protects it from any trauma in the digestive tract of the host organism. Trematodes are also found in the liver and bile duct. Their width can only be around one inch, but the length can extend to a few inches.
Digenea: They are a subclass of platyhelminthes. They are flatworms which are characterized by syncytial tegument. They have two suckers - ventral and oral. Adult digenea are found commonly in the digestive tract, but they may exist in all the organ systems in the body. There are 113 discovered species of digenea found in humans.
Turbellaria: They are flat shaped with a leaf-like structure. There is an absence of circulatory and respiratory system in these worms, which means that their oxygen and nutrient requirements are met through diffusion. There are 3 discovered species of turbellaria found in humans.
Cestoda: Commonly known as tapeworms, they live in the digestive tract of the host organism. They do not have a mouth, head, or a digestive tract. However, their body has a segment called scolex which attaches itself to the intestinal wall, and this intestinal parasite is thus able to absorb food.
Eucestoda : It is a type of flat worm which falls under the class cestoda. Its larvae have six hooks on the head. There are 57 discovered species of eucestoda found in humans.

Also known as thorny-headed worms, they have complex life cycles. The worms in this phylum have an evertable proboscis and spines, with which they cut and hold on to the gut wall of the host organism. There are 7 discovered species of acanthocephala found in humans.

Worms belonging to this phylum are also known as roundworms in humans. Their major characteristic is the presence of a digestive system resembling a tube. They have long slender bodies, and the length may vary from 2 - 30 cm. There are 138 discovered species of nematoda found in humans. Heartworms or Dirofilaria immitis, that spread through mosquito bites from one host to another, belong to this phylum.

The distinguishing feature of nematomorpha worms, also known as Gordian worms, is that they tie themselves in knots. The average size of worms from this phylum is 1 cm to 1 meter. The adult nematomorpha are free living while the larvae are parasitic. There are 24 discovered species found in humans.
Diseases Caused
Endolimax nana eats the calcium from the bones, thereby causing arthritis. Ascaris, a type of roundworm, gets into the lungs and causes asthma. Hookworms or Necator americanus are found in the intestines. They drink blood from the blood vessels, thereby causing anemia. Intestinal parasitic infection is caused by tapeworms, too.
Commonly seen symptoms of parasitic worm infestations are:
  • Stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Inability to gain or lose weight
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Stools with mucus
  • Constipation
  • Water retention
  • Anemia
As far as treatment of parasitic worms is concerned, the doctor would first take a stool test to ascertain the type of worms present in the body. Then, in accordance with the type of parasitic worms present, he will prescribe a vermicides. Vermicides or anthelmintics are the drugs that root out parasitic worms from the body, by either killing them or stunning them. Some of the commonly used anthelmintics are thiabendazole, which is effective against roundworms and hookworms, and flubendazole, which is effective against intestinal parasites.
Maintain cleanliness by taking a bath everyday. Wash your hands regularly especially after going to the toilet and before eating. Wear clean, washed clothes. Maintain hygienic sanitary conditions. Wash vegetables and fruits before eating or cooking. Do not keep cooked food outside for long periods. Such preventive measures will surely lessen the prevalence of parasitic worms in your surroundings.
For naturally treating parasitic worms, consume herbs such as pumpkin seeds, cloves, black walnut, gentian root, peppermint, thyme, fennel seed, and grapefruit seed. These herbs are known for their parasite killing properties and have been used as natural parasite cleanse for ages.
Currently an estimated three billion people are infected with parasitic worms. With such high numbers, their prevention and treatment either by natural body cleansing or by a physician, has become a necessity.