A parasite is an organism which has evolved to live by invading the body of another living being. Intestinal Parasite Infection is the most common variety because the majority of parasites are adapted to live within the intestinal walls. Exposure to species of parasite which invade the gastro-intestinal tract typically occurs as a result of drinking infected water, consuming under-cooked meat (such as sushi), contact with contaminated soil, fecal-oral transmission, inadequate personal hygiene, or absorption through the skin. Avoiding the main means of contamination is very helpful, GI tract parasites may very rarely be transmitted through other means, such as when a mother infected with immature hookworms transmits the disease to her infant via breastfeeding.
Effects on the Body
In many cases, human adults infected with parasites may be completely asymptomatic unless the parasites begin reproducing in extremely large numbers or the human host has a compromised immune system.
Signs and symptoms of worms Infection
When signs and symptoms of Intestinal Parasite Infection do occur, they tend to be fairly consistent despite the fact that there are many different parasite species which could be responsible.
The first signs are often gastrointestinal complications such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If the parasitic infection continues then it will likely impact the host’s nutritional absorption and result in a general feeling of weakness due to loss of appetite, weight loss, and intestinal bleeding which may result in anemia. There may be reddening of the skin around an infected person’s anus or vulva.
Certain varieties of parasites are actually capable of modifying the behavior of their human host. Toxoplasma gondii, for example, can eventually infect the brain and cause the affected individual to become more impulsive and occasionally even results in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Children are especially susceptible to adverse effects of parasites which may include delayed growth or even physical and mental disabilities.
A number of preventative measures may be used to reduce the chances of Intestinal Parasite Infection.
Avoid unclean water sources. Drink only packaged or boiled water, never water which has been ‘standing’ (whether indoors or outdoors); be careful if swimming in rivers, lakes, or ponds as water may enter the mouth.
Eat only meat which has been cooked thoroughly. In certain areas, it may be necessary to cook vegetables as well.
Wash hands thoroughly, especially if touching animals or soil.
Wear shoes when outdoors.
Such a wide variety of intestinal parasites exist that describing the symptoms alone is unlikely to be sufficient for diagnosis. The most common methods of clinical test include searching stool samples for parasites or eggs, or alternatively applying a piece of tape or other adhesive to the anus looking for signs of the parasitic infection.
The most common treatment for Intestinal Parasite Infections is simply giving the patient medication containing Albendazole which may either poison the parasite directly or, more often, make the parasite susceptible to digestion (in order to prevent also poisoning the human host).
In cases where a tapeworm has grown to very large size, surgery may be necessary, though this is a rare occurrence because by the time the worms have become that large or plentiful, the patient would typically be in extreme pain and have sought out a physician long before the situation became so dire.