What Is Ascaris Lumbricoides? A Common Human Parasite

ascaris lumbricoides

Ascaris lumbricoides is a name you might not hear often, yet this parasitic worm is one of the most common parasitic inhabitants found in the human intestine around the globe. Despite advancements in healthcare, Ascaris lumbricoides remains a persistent health challenge, particularly in regions with limited access to clean water and sanitation. Understanding this parasite's biology, symptoms, life cycle, and treatment is vital for public health measures and for personal well-being. In this article, we will discuss Ascaris lumbricoides in detail, including its transmission, symptoms, and treatment.

 

What is Ascaris Lumbricoides?

ascaris lumbricoides

 

Ascaris lumbricoides is a species of roundworm. (1) This parasite can grow to an impressive size — sometimes as long as a pencil! Despite their size, these worms are usually hidden from view, living inside the human gut. They are often discovered only when they cause health problems or are identified in stool samples.

 

How Do People Become Infected with Ascaris Lumbricoides?

 

People become infected with Ascaris lumbricoides primarily by ingesting the parasite's eggs. These eggs are microscopic and can be present in soil contaminated with human feces containing Ascaris eggs. People often consume the eggs due to:

 

  • Improper Sanitation
  • Contact with Contaminated Soil
  • Poor Hygiene Practices
  • Consumption of Unwashed Vegetables and Fruits
  • Drinking Contaminated Water

 

The Ascaris Lumbricoides Life Cycle

 

The Ascaris lumbricoides life cycle is a fascinating yet disturbing process. After the ingestion of mature eggs, larvae hatch in the intestines and then burrow through the gut wall into the bloodstream. They travel to the lungs, mature for a short period, and then climb up the airways to the throat. There, they are coughed up and swallowed again, returning to the intestines to mature into adult worms. This remarkable journey is not only a testament to the worm's resilience but also to the interconnectedness of our body systems. (1)

 

A Closer Look: Ascaris Lumbricoides Under Microscope

ascaris under microscope

 

Under the microscope, Ascaris lumbricoides presents a world of its own. The eggs have a distinct, bumpy outer layer called the albuminous coat, which is resistant to various environmental conditions. The larvae inside are in a dormant state, biding their time until they enter a new host. The adult worms have three lips around their mouth, used for attaching to the intestinal wall and feeding on the host's partially digested food. (1)

 

What Are the Symptoms of Ascaris Lumbricoides?

ascaris lumbricoides infection

 

An infection of Ascaris lumbricoides is known as ascariasis. (2) While a significant number of Ascaris infections are asymptomatic, meaning they don't cause any noticeable symptoms, heavy infestations can lead to a range of health issues. Some of the common symptoms of Ascaris lumbricoides can include:

 

  • Abdominal Discomfort: The presence of numerous worms can cause pain and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen, often leading to discomfort after eating.
  • Fatigue: This symptom may arise from the body's immune response to the worms or from mild to moderate anemia if the infestation affects the body's nutrient absorption.
  • Weight Loss: As the worms compete for nutrients, people with heavy infestations may lose weight due to malnutrition or decreased appetite.
  • Intestinal Blockage: A large number of worms can clump together and block the intestines, leading to severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and constipation.
  • Malnutrition: The worms can interfere with nutrient uptake, leading to deficiencies that can cause stunted growth and other health problems, especially in children.
  • Impaired Growth and Development in Children: Chronic infections can affect a child's physical and cognitive development, often due to malnutrition or the body's constant immune response to the worms.
  • Respiratory Symptoms: During the life cycle stage, when the larvae migrate through the lungs, they can cause respiratory symptoms, including coughing and difficulty breathing.
  • Impacted Cognitive Functioning: Especially in children, chronic infestations can affect cognitive abilities and academic performance due to both nutritional deficiencies and the body's efforts to fight the infection.
  • Other Gastrointestinal Issues: In addition to blockage, symptoms can include diarrhea or dysentery (bloody stools), which can exacerbate malnutrition and weight loss.

 

Understanding these symptoms and their severity can be critical for timely diagnosis and treatment to avoid more serious complications associated with Ascaris lumbricoides infections. In extreme cases of severe infection, issues like bowel perforation, severe nutrient deficiencies, severe cognitive impairment, and severe respiratory complications can occur. (3, 4)

Ascaris Lumbricoides Treatment

 

When treatment for Ascaris lumbricoides is required, it typically involves a course of anti-parasitic medication. Drugs such as albendazole, mebendazole, or ivermectin are highly effective at clearing the worms from the body. (5) These medications either kill the worms or paralyze them so that they are expelled from the body through natural bowel movements. 

 

Some people wish to use natural alternatives to common anti-parasitic medications. Some of the most common anti-parasitic herbs used for eliminating Ascaris lumbricoides are green-black walnut hulls, sweet wormwood, and cloves. We include therapeutic extracts of these herbs in our Parasite Detox Tonic.

 

Of course, make sure to consult with your doctor for proper testing and treatment if you suspect you have a parasitic infection. Your doctor will be able to give you professional advice that best suits your particular situation. 

 

Preventing Ascaris Lumbricoides Infections

washing hands

 

Preventing Ascaris lumbricoides infection centers around interrupting its lifecycle. This can be achieved through improved sanitation infrastructure, such as sewage systems and toilets, to prevent human feces from contaminating the environment. Access to clean water and education on proper handwashing techniques are also crucial. Additionally, food safety practices, including washing fruits and vegetables and cooking meat thoroughly, reduce the risk of ingesting Ascaris eggs.

 

The Global Impact of Ascaris Lumbricoides

 

The impact of Ascaris lumbricoides on global health cannot be understated. It is estimated that around a billion people are infected worldwide, with the greatest burden occurring in areas where poverty, overcrowding, and inadequate sanitation are common. (6) As such, Ascaris lumbricoides is not just a medical challenge but also a socio-economic issue that requires a multifaceted approach, including health education, improved living conditions, and regular mass deworming programs in endemic regions.

 

Summary

 

Ascaris lumbricoides is an intestinal worm that, while often out of sight, should not be out of mind. It is the most common type of parasitic infection worldwide, affecting over a billion people. It can range from being asymptomatic to fatal depending on the severity of the infection. It is important to practice proper hygiene and take preventative measures to avoid infection, and to treat infections promptly to prevent them from getting worse.

 

While this parasitic is extremely common, and also commonly overlooked, its treatment is fairly straightforward and typically consists of taking anti-parasitic medications or natural remedies. It is recommended to consult with your doctor if you are concerned about having an infection or are seeking treatment.

 

References

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/ascariasis/index.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430796/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172702/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4630244/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7156140/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6006641/

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