Parasites are organisms that absorb resources from a host. Parasitic worms vary in prevalence around the world, and largely have to do with food sources, infection, and sewage issues.  Humans and animals often provide a resource-rich home for parasitic creatures, such as parasitic worms.

Types of Worms:

Intestinal Roundworms: These are the leading type of worms in the human body, globally. Roundworms typically live in the large and small intestines. Female worms, which look like white threads and live in the intestines, lay eggs near the skin of the anus. The eggs are highly infectious and cause localized itching.

Tissue Roundworms: These worms can enter and live in many parts of the body including the muscles, skin, lymph notes, eyes, and lungs. Often these worms enter the body through ingestion, such as undercooked meat, or through insect bites. The worms live in the intestines, lay eggs, which hatch and migrate to muscles. Cysts form when the larvae begin to mature.  In Africa, there is also a particular epidemic of blackflies, which live in the skin and the eyes. Mosquito and flies can also transmit other types of tissue roundworms, such as Wucheria ancrofti, brugia malayi, and loa loa.

Ascarias are a very common type of internal worm, found in approximately 25% of people globally. The parasites are smaller than most, at only 16 inches, and are found in the infested dirt of vegetables  and plants.  Few symptoms are noted with this parasite, unless the worms become quite large, at which point vomiting and abdominal pain might be present. Severe weight loss is also a symptom of these worms.

Pinworms are tiny worms that are a quarter to a half an inch in length. These worms come from contaminated foods, drinks, and surfaces. They can be hard to diagnose due to their small size, and they rarely cause infection. Severe infections may cause anal itching, insomnia, and intermittent nausea.

Trichinella Spiralis is a roundworm found in meat-eating mammals such as hogs, bears, and fox.  The tainted meat causes infection, which has the symptoms of fever, pain, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Severe infection can cause heart inflammation, issues with the brain, lungs, kidneys, or spinal cord.

Tapeworms are often found in contaminated fish, beef, and pork. The worms are much larger than other types of parasites, and can range between 26 and 80 feet long. The worms live in the intestines and can live for tens of years. The worms causes cysts when the larvae enter the brain, heart, lungs, and eyes.

Flatworms feed on the cells, blood, or tissues of other organisms. They absorb nutrients through their skin. They can range in length from extremely tiny to approximately seven feet in length.

Flukes are a type of flatworm that has a mouth sucker that attaches them to their host. They may live in the skin or outside of an organism. However, blood flukes that live in humans live inside the body.

Symptoms of Worm Infection:

The following are common symptoms of having an internal parasitic worm; however, keep in mind that these are generalized symptoms that are also common in many other types of illness and diseases.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Rashes
  • Insomnia
  • Eye pain
  • Protein deficiency
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Mental dullness
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Nervousness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Stomach bloating
  • Bloody stools
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

Other signs of infection include:

  • Abdominal swelling
  • Skin conditions
  • Cysts

It is possible to die from internal parasites; however, typically side effects cause significant discomfort.

Diagnosis of Worms:

A physical examination and symptom inventory will be taken by your physician.  Testing may include testing of fecal matter, examination of the anus for eggs or a x-ray with barium.

Treatment for Worms:

Medication can be prescribed by your physician to treat and eradicate parasitic worms.  Some medications only require a single dose while others must be taken for several weeks; medications may vary according to the type of parasite.

In addition to medication, patients are encouraged to:

  • Avoid simple carbohydrates.
  • Eat raw fruits and vegetables that are known to kill parasites.  These include: garlic, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, carrots, papaya, and honey.
  • Increase water and fiber intake to help flush the system.
  • Add probiotic supplements and digestive enzymes to diet.
  • Take Vitamin C and zinc to boost the immune system.

How Are Worms Transmitted?

Parasites are often transmitted from host to host via bug bites such as mosquitoes or flies, through consumption of under-cooked or raw meats, contaminated water, and in contaminated soils. People become sick because they are under-consuming nutrients and they are also processing the waste castings from the parasitic worms.

According to the UK site, the following practices can help you avoid parasitic worms:

  • Hand washing after touching animals, returning home, etc.
  • Removing shoes before entering the house
  • Regular bathing
  • Buy quality meats and cook thoroughly
  • Avoid eating raw meat
  • Wash/rinse all foods before cooking and eating
  • Drink clean water that has been filtered
  • Pets should receive de-worming treatments and encouraged to sleep in their own bedding
  • Wear gloves and/or a mask when cleaning up after a pet
  • Consider adding a probiotic supplement to your diet
  • Use a hand disinfectant in addition to regular hand washing
  • Clean your home regularly to avoid mold growth and insect infestation

It is important to note that worms can be transmitted during sexual contact, as well

Worms Resources:

All About Worms - Information about any kind of worms - Scientific site about worms 

USDA - Fact Sheet on Parasites and Foodborne Illness