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What is Ascariasis?

Ascariasis is a parasitic infection, caused by roundworms. The parasite measures about 40 cm in length and 6 mm in diameter and it is the most prevalent worm infection seen in India. An estimated one billion people are infected worldwide with these worms. It occurs in all age groups, with children being severely affected compared to adults. The tropical and subtropical regions are considered highly prevalent for ascariasis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 870 million children reside in worm infection-prone areas.

What are the main signs and symptoms of ascariasis?

People may mostly have few or no symptoms.

However common symptoms include:

Mild to Moderate Cases

Severe Cases

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Presence of worms in vomit or stools

A heavy infestation may lead to nutritional deficiencies, intestinal blockage, and impaired growth in children. Some may develop lung-related problems, such as wheezing and coughing.

Complications mentioned below may occur:

  • Bleeding through rectum
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Appendicitis
  • liver and gallbladder disease
  • Pancreatic pseudocyst

What are the main causes of ascariasis?

Ascariasis is caused by the parasite Ascaris lumbricoides. It does not spread via direct person-to-person contact but spreads through an infected person’s faeces containing ascariasis eggs. These eggs can be transmitted to the farm soil through natural fertilisers.

The mode of infection is through:

  • Consuming food or fluids contaminated with roundworm eggs
  • Playing in contaminated soil and inhaling the dust particles
  • Openly defecating along with poor hygienic conditions and improper sanitation
  • Coming in contact with animals such as pigs

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The life cycle of these worms is usually 4-8 weeks.

Diagnosis can be done as follows:

  • Microscopy: Direct examination of faeces
  • Eosinophilia: Detection of the presence of elevated eosinophil count (a type of white blood cells [WBCs])
  • Imaging: Visualisation of the presence of worms and obstruction caused by it
  • Serology (Rarely): Determination of the presence of antibodies against the parasite

Treatment includes anthelminthic drugs, which either expel or kill worms. Avoid these drugs during pregnancy as they have the potential to cause harm to the foetus.

  • Post-operative care and rehabilitation include:
  • Vitamin A supplementation for children
  • Retreatment in 3-6 months in endemic areas
  • Compliance with drug therapy to get maximum benefit

Self-care tips

  • Maintaining good sanitation and personal hygiene is essential to ward off any further infection
  • Avoiding the use of human faeces as fertilizers
  • Ensuring that foods are properly covered before consumption
  • Educating and practising hand washing before and after meals
  • Preventing children from playing in the soil as far as possible
  • Preferably consuming bottled water, eating cooked and hot meals, and washing and peeling raw fruits and vegetables

Prevention is the key against such infestations. Following the aforementioned treatment strategies can help avoid major complications to a great extent.

  1. Medicines for Ascariasis
  2. Doctors for Ascariasis
Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

संक्रामक रोग

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

संक्रामक रोग

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

संक्रामक रोग

Do you or anyone in your family have this disease? Please do a survey and help others

References

  1. Nasir Salam. Prevalence and distribution of soil-transmitted helminth infections in India. BMC Public Health. 2017; 17: 201. PMID: 28209148
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Ascariasis
  3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Parasites - Ascariasis. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. [internet]
  4. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Ascariasis (roundworm infection)
  5. de Lima Corvino DF, Horrall S. Ascariasis. Ascariasis. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
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