Heliminthiasis

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Overview

The word "helminths" comes from the Greek meaning worm. The parasites that infect humans can be classified as heirlooms or souvenirs. Parasites that are inherited from ancestors in Africa are called Heirlooms, and those that are acquired from the animals during contact through our evolution, migrations, and agricultural practices are called souvenirs. In developing countries, the most common infectious agents of humans are these helminthic infections. More than a quarter of the world's population, that means approximately 2 billion people are affected by the helminthic parasite, and it is one of the major burdens of developing countries, especially in children.

There are two major phyla of helminths known as nematodes and platyhelminths. Nematodes are also known as roundworms that include soil-transmitted helminths and the filarial worms that cause lymphatic filariasis (LF) and onchocerciasis.

Other phyla platyhelminths also called flatworms, which include flukes schistosomes and tapeworms such as the pork tapeworm that causes cysticercosis. Flukes are known as trematodes, and tapeworms are known as cestodes. Soil-transmitted helminthiasis is a roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), and hookworm (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus).

The soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), enter into the human body from contaminated soil that contains eggs of A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura. Some helminth can penetrate the skin directly (hookworm larvae).[7][5] The diseases by helminths are neglected tropical diseases because they usually have insidious effects on growth and development. Also, the study of these diseases receives less than 1% of the global research budget.

Symptoms

helminth infections usually have no symptoms. Heavy infections can cause a range of health problems, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood and protein loss, rectal prolapse, and physical and cognitive growth retardation.

Nausea.

Vomiting.

Abdominal Pain.

Diarrhoea.

Loss of appetite.

Visible worms in the stools.

Weight loss.

Causes

Consumption of  and soil

Contact with contaminated feces

Poor sanitation and hygiene

Soil transmitted helminthiasis infections, such as roundworms and hookworms, are the most common types of helminth infections in children. Infected people excrete helminth eggs in their feces, which then can potentially contaminate the soil in areas with inadequate sanitation. Other people can then be infected by ingesting eggs or larvae in contaminated food, or through penetration of the skin by infective larvae in the soil.

The reason why soil transmitted helminthiasis is so prevalent among children is that children often play outside and unintentionally put their hands in unclean soil. These soil particles get stuck in their nails and when the child bites the nails, the worm eggs enter the intestine and grow inside the gastrointestinal tract. Since these worms are parasitic, they use the host’s resources to grow and reproduce inside the body. Most people may not even feel their presence, but when the worms grow too big or start entering other organs, symptoms of a worm infection manifest.

Risk factors

helminth infections are attributable to several risk factors, including low standard of living, poor socioeconomic status, poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, urbanization, human behavior, household clustering, occupation and climate.

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Complications

Anemia.

Malnutrition.

Growth retardation.

Developmental retardation.

Intestinal obstruction.

Gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Cor pulmonale.

Portal hypertension.

Prevention

Worms can be effectively controlled by periodic chemotherapy (deworming) with safe, cheap and single-dose drugs. Treatment should ideally be implemented alongside improvements in sanitation and health education. Deworming can improve children's growth and benefit their learning by increasing primary school attendance.

Approximately 1.5 billion people are infected with soil-transmitted helminths worldwide. Control is based on periodical deworming to eliminate infecting worms, health education to prevent re-infection, and improved sanitation to reduce soil contamination with infective eggs.The global strategy for the control of soil-transmitted helminthiasis is based on (i) regular anthelminthic treatment, (ii) health education, (iii) sanitation and personal hygiene and (iv) other means of prevention with vaccines and remote sensoring.