Ascariasis (Round Worm Infection)

Ascariasis is an infection of the small bowel caused by the worm ascaris lumbricoides, characterized in many as having no abdominal symptoms but surprised by the passage of live worms from the rectum, mouth or nose. Serious illness in the form of bowel obstruction or even pneumonia can occur as well.

Where does it occur?

Ascaris lumbricoides or round worms occur worldwide but is predominantly found in tropical countries.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by ingesting unwashed, uncooked or undercooked fruits and vegetables contaminated with soil containing the worm’s eggs or ingestion of contaminated soil itself.

Is it contagious from person to person?

No

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low to moderate for those traveling to tropical countries.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms usually develop 4-8 weeks after exposure

What are the signs and symptoms?

Many have no symptoms and are only aware of the illness when live worms are passed in stool or come out of one’s mouth or nose. If the larvae of the worm penetrate the lining of the intestines and migrate through the blood to the lungs, one can have symptoms of cough, fever and shortness of breath.

If there is a large volume of worms, it can obstruct the bowels, bile duct or pancreatic duct and cause symptoms of abdominal distention, pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice and vitamin deficiencies due to malabsorption.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Diagnosis is made by detecting the eggs of the worm in stool or by identifying the worms or its larvae in stool or sputum.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like mebendazole and albendazole are effective

What preventive measures can be taken?

Practice strict hand washing before eating, make sure all fresh vegetables and fruits are washed properly and cooked well.

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