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An Overview of Helminthic Diseases

Helminthic diseases are brought on by helminths, which are parasitic worms. The three primary subgroups of these worms are tapeworms, roundworms, and flukes. There are about 300 helminths known to infect people. Direct encounters primarily transmit helminths with the parasite or ingest contaminated water or food. From contaminated soil or water, parasites can occasionally enter humans through their skin.

The most underprivileged and underdeveloped areas are affected by soil-transmitted helminthic diseases, among the most prevalent illnesses worldwide. This condition is caused by an infestation of one or more whipworms, hookworms, or Ascaris, intestinal parasitic roundworms.

Table of Contents

What are Helminths

Helminths are parasitic worms. They are the most prevalent human infectious agents in developing nations and are responsible for a more significant global disease burden than malaria and tuberculosis.

Though many helminth species are restricted to semi-tropical or tropical regions due to climatic factors, helminths are responsible for human disease worldwide. But some illnesses are spreading faster than others because of climatic changes.

Helminth infections are a significant problem in developing or impoverished nations, which are also plagued by other issues, including HIV infection, outdated infrastructure, political unrest, and conflict.

Characteristics of Helminths

Helminths can exist as parasites in aquatic and terrestrial habitats or without a host. Intestinal nematodes, also known as soil-transmitted helminths (STH), schistosomes are parasites that cause schistosomiasis, and filarial worms cause lymphatic filariasis (LF) and onchocerciasis, are the most prevalent forms of a worldwide scale.

Based on their morphology (structure) and method of transmission, helminths can be divided into three main groups. They are flukes or trematodes, tapeworms or cestodes, and roundworms or nematodes.

Around the world, there are 819 million cases of Ascaris (regular roundworm), 464 million cases of Trichuris (whipworm), and 438 million cases of hookworm.

Diagnosis and Transmission

Enterobiasis is the most prevalent helminthic disease in Western Europe and is caused by Enterobius vermicularis (threadworm/pinworm). Person-to-person transmission happens when infected eggs are spread on surfaces or in food. Scratching the perianal region and bringing contaminated hands into the mouth can result in auto-infection.

Pruritus ani is a common infection symptom, yet most infections are asymptomatic. Patients with a high worm infestation develop abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea.

Intestinal Ascaris (common roundworm) worms are rarely seen unless they are discharged in faeces. Ascariasis is the root cause of 5% to 35% of intestinal blockages in endemic areas.

An A. pneumonitis infection and eosinophilia characterise Loeffler’s syndrome. Ascaris pneumonitis is the most typical clinical symptom. Due to the movement of larvae via the lungs, a portion of people affected may have cough, fever, urticaria and dyspnea.

Dog and cat parasitic roundworms called Toxocara canis and T. catis are common worldwide. Human infection happens when eggs ingested that have been exposed to cat or dog faeces.

The beef tapeworm, Taenia saginata, brings on taeniasis. Patients with T. saginata infection frequently present only after passing a proglottid segment in stools and are typically asymptomatic.

Cysticercosis is brought on by the swine tapeworm Taenia solium. Infected patients typically experience muscle pain and oedema when cysts invade and form. Nodules on the skin may also exist.

Prevention and Treatment

There is no successful treatment because many different helminths can infect humans and cause disease. Vermifuges, which are worm-killing medications, can successfully eliminate parasitic worms and are an effective treatment for most infections.

Additionally, while certain helminth infections can be treated quickly, others may take weeks or years to recover. In rare cases, patients have disabling conditions due to organ and limb damage.

There are numerous methods for avoiding helminth disease. First, avoiding touch with the parasites helps prevent infection. Frequent hand washing, keeping bathrooms and kitchens clean, and staying away from infectious animals are all ways to avoid coming into contact. Furthermore, thorough boiling of food—especially meats like pork and beef, which may harbour parasites—prevents the consumption of parasites.

Drinking water can be made free of parasites by boiling, filtering, or chlorinating. Water can be boiled before bathing or avoided altogether to prevent parasite uptake while swimming or bathing in contaminated water, an issue, particularly for fluke parasites.

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Name the 5 diseases caused by helminths.

The five diseases caused by helminths are enterobiasis (Enterobius vermicularis or pinworm/threadworm), ascariasis (Ascaris or roundworm), taeniasis (Taenia saginata or beef tapeworm), cysticercosis (Taenia solium or pork tapeworm), and schistosomiasis (Schistosoma mansoni).

Name the various types of helminths.

The main types of parasitic helminths are flatworms (platyhelminths), thorny-headed worms (acanthocephalans), tapeworms (cestodes), flukes (trematodes), and nematodes (roundworms).

What are the symptoms of helminthic diseases?

People with mild soil-transmitted helminth infections typically do not exhibit any symptoms. Numerous health issues, such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, protein and blood loss, rectal prolapse, and physical and mental growth retardation, can be brought on by severe infections.


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