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Condition

Ascariasis

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Ascariasis?

Ascariasis is an infection with the parasitic roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides.

What are the alternative names for Ascariasis?

Intestinal parasite - ascariasis; Roundworm - ascariasis

What are the causes for Ascariasis?

People get ascariasis by consuming food or drink that is contaminated with roundworm eggs. Ascariasis is the most common intestinal worm infection. It is related to poor personal hygiene and poor sanitation. People who live in places where human feces (stool) are used as fertilizer are also at risk for this disease.

Once consumed, the eggs hatch and release immature roundworms called larvae inside the small intestine. Within a few days, the larvae move through the bloodstream to the lungs. They travel up through the large airways of the lungs, and are swallowed back into the stomach and small intestine.

As the larvae move through the lungs they may cause an uncommon form of pneumonia called eosinophilic pneumonia. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell. Once the larvae are back in the small intestine, they mature into adult roundworms. Adult worms live in the small intestine, where they lay eggs that are present in feces. They can live 10 to 24 months.

An estimated 1 billion people are infected worldwide. Ascariasis occurs in people of all ages, though children are affected more severely than adults.

What are the symptoms for Ascariasis?

Most of the time, there are no symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include:

  • Bloody sputum (mucus coughed up by the lower airways)
  • Cough, wheezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Passing worms in stool
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting or coughing up worms
  • Worms leaving the body through the nose or mouth

What are the current treatments for Ascariasis?

Treatment includes medicines such as albendazole that paralyze or kill intestinal parasitic worms.

If there is a blockage of the intestine caused by a large number of worms, a procedure called endoscopy may be used to remove the worms. In rare cases, surgery is needed.

People who are treated for roundworms should be checked again in 3 months. This involves examining the stools to check for eggs of the worm. If eggs are present, treatment should be given again.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Ascariasis?

Most people recover from symptoms of the infection, even without treatment. But they may continue to carry the worms in their body.

Complications can be caused by adult worms that move to certain organs, such as the:

  • Appendix
  • Bile duct
  • Pancreas

If the worms multiply, they can block the intestine.

What are the possible complications for Ascariasis?

These complications may occur:

  • Blockage in the bile ducts of the liver
  • Blockage in the intestine
  • Hole in the gut

When should I contact a medical professional for Ascariasis?

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of ascariasis, particularly if you have traveled to an area where the disease is common. Also call if you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms get worse
  • Symptoms do not improve with treatment
  • New symptoms occur

How do I prevent Ascariasis?

Improved sanitation and hygiene in developing countries will reduce the risk in those areas. In places where ascariasis is common, people may be given deworming medicines as a preventive measure.

Roundworm
Digestive

REFERENCES

Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN. Intestinal nematodes. In: Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN, eds. Human Parasitology. 5th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier Academic Press; 2019:chap 16.

Maguire JH. Intestinal nematodes (roundworms). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 288.

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Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Fungal and Parasitic Infections of the Liver
  • Journal: Gastroenterology clinics of North America
  • Treatment Used: Anti-Helminthic Agents
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses the fungal and parasitic infections of the liver and their treatments.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Ascaris Lumbricoides
  • Journal: The Cochrane database of systematic reviews
  • Treatment Used: Albendazole, Mebendazole, Ivermectin
  • Number of Patients: 6442
  • Published —
This review compared the effectiveness and safety of albendazole, mebendazole, and ivermectin for treating people with Ascaris lumbricoides infection.