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Condition

Trichinosis

Condition 101

What is the definition of Trichinosis?

Trichinosis is an infection with the roundworm Trichinella spiralis.

What are the alternative names for Trichinosis?

Parasite infection - trichinosis; Trichiniasis; Trichinellosis; Roundworm - trichinosis

What are the causes for Trichinosis?

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by eating meat that has not been thoroughly cooked and contains cysts (larvae, or immature worms) of Trichinella spiralis. This parasite can be found in pork, bear, walrus, fox, rat, horse, and lion.

Wild animals, especially carnivores (meat eaters) or omnivores (animals that eat both meat and plants), should be considered possible sources of roundworm disease. Domestic meat animals raised specifically for eating under US Department of Agriculture (government) guidelines and inspection can be considered safe. For this reason, trichinosis is rare in the United States, but it is a common infection worldwide.

When a person eats meat from an infected animal, trichinella cysts break open in the intestine and grow into adult roundworms. The roundworms produce other worms that move through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. The worms invade muscle tissues, including the heart and diaphragm (the breathing muscle under the lungs). They can also infect the lungs and brain. The cysts remain alive for years.

What are the symptoms for Trichinosis?

Symptoms of trichinosis include:

  • Abdominal discomfort, cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Facial swelling around the eyes
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain (especially muscle pain with breathing, chewing, or using large muscles)
  • Muscle weakness

What are the current treatments for Trichinosis?

Medicines, such as albendazole, can be used to treat infections in the intestines. A mild infection does not usually need treatment. Pain medicine can help relieve muscle soreness after the larvae have invaded the muscles.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Trichinosis?

Most people with trichinosis have no symptoms and the infection goes away by itself. More severe infections may be difficult to treat, especially if the lungs, heart, or brain is involved.

What are the possible complications for Trichinosis?

Possible complications include:

  • Encephalitis (brain infection and inflammation)
  • Heart failure
  • Heart rhythm problems from heart inflammation
  • Pneumonia

When should I contact a medical professional for Trichinosis?

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of trichinosis and you recently ate undercooked or raw meat that might have been contaminated.

How do I prevent Trichinosis?

Pork and meat from wild animals should be cooked until well done (no traces of pink). Freezing pork at a low temperature (5°F or -15°C or colder) for 3 to 4 weeks will kill the worms. Freezing wild game meat does not always kill the worms. Smoking, salting, and drying meat are also not reliable methods of killing the worms.

REFERENCES

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

Kazura JW. Tissue nematodes (trichinellosis, dracunculiasis, filariasis, loiasis, and onchocerciasis). 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 289.

Data Source : ADAM

Graphics

Trichinella spiralis in human muscleDigestive system organs