While some parasites don't cause diseases, others do. Plants as well as animals get affected by them. Parasites are divided into 2 categories - endoparasites and ectoparasites. Endoparasites are the parasites that live inside the body of the host while ectoparasites live on the body of the host.
Talking about ascariasis, this parasitic infection is caused by an endoparasite called - Ascaris lumbricoides - a large nematode (roundworm). The adult worms can grow up to 12 inches, the gastrointestinal tract or other body parts such as the lungs are the organs of the body these nematode parasites reside in. These parasites spend their entire life cycle in the human body.
The symptoms of ascariasis are usually not noticeable in people unless the roundworms become evident. Abdominal discomfort and cough are two main symptoms of ascariasis.
Symptoms of this infection when the roundworm is in your lungs are:
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in mucus
- Discomfort in the chest
Presence of the roundworm in your intestines can lead to:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and irregular stools
- Loss of appetite
- Worms visible in stool
- Weight loss
- Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
- Malabsorption leading to growth impairment in children
- Vomiting and severe pain caused by an intestinal blockage
- Abdominal cramping
- Abdominal swelling
The main causes behind contracting ascariasis are poor hygiene and consuming foods and drinks that are contaminated with the eggs of these nematodes. According to WHO, children get this worm infection by the intake of contaminated soil. The worms then reproduce in their intestines and move to their lungs through their bloodstream. These germs then get swallowed to the intestines where they breed and produce their offsprings again. This is how their life cycle continues in the body.
This infection is diagnosed by the doctors by assessing the stool samples of the patients. Medics examine the samples for parasites and ova. Doctors can use methods like CT scan, X-rays, ultrasound, MRI scan, endoscopy, etc., to find out the growth of the parasites in your body.
Doctors usually prescribe antiparasitic drugs to the patients to treat this infection. If your infection is at an advanced stage the doctors might have to perform a surgery on you to remove the roundworms blocking your intestines.
The medicines provided to curb the parasitic infestation are:
The symptoms of this infection might appear to fade away during the course of medication, but the worms could still be alive and this could lead to complications such as intestinal obstruction if the infestation is too much. If you see any symptoms of this infection make sure you consult a doctor immediately.
Hygiene is the key to keep ascariasis at bay. Make sure that you always wash your hands with soap before eating and eat at a place which maintains cleanliness. The fruits and vegetables you consume should be washed thoroughly using clean water.