Worm infections

Hookworm   Pinworm   Roundworm   Tapeworm

1. Hookworm disease

HOOKWORM Life Cycle Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Hookworm disease is caused by one of two types of S-shaped worms that infect humans (the worm’s host). These are Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. Both species cause infection by attaching themselves to the lining of the small intestine and sucking the person’s blood. The infection is spread generally by skin contact with soil, when a person walks barefoot on wet soil contaminated by human feces having hookworm larvae. The tiny larvae penetrate the skin and enter the host’s  lungs through the blood vessels. From here, the larvae reach the intestines when coughed up and swallowed by the host. The tiny hookworm larvae may also infect a person when any contaminated food item is swallowed. You may visit this site for additional information on hookworm infection.


Avoid walking barefoot, or touching with bare hands, any soil likely to have been contaminated by human excrement. This applies to areas where open defecation is practiced. Keep your hands always clean, so any infective larvae touching your hands do not enter your body or, through you, others. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables that you may eat raw.


Contact your doctor

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2. Pinworm infection or enterobiasis

What does it do to you?

Itching is often felt in the anal and vaginal areas. When the infection is high, it can lead to abdominal pain, sleep deprivation, nausea and emaciation through malnutrition as the worms can take away from the intestine nutrition meant to be absorbed into the host’s (our) body. Occasional complications, especially in females, include urinary tract infection (UTI), pelvic pain, vaginitis, inflammation of the uterine lining, etc. For more information on pinworm infection you may visit Healthline or Mayo Clinic.


Life Cycle of Pinworm Wiki public domain

PINWORM – Life Cycle – Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Pinworm infection is caused by Enterobius vermicularis, which is a thin pin-like roundworm. Infection takes place when the larvae reach the mouth through fingers, food, etc. From here the larvae reach the intestines where they grow, feeding upon digested nourishment from the intestine. The gravid females then creep all the way down the alimentary canal and out, and lay their eggs around the host’s anus and spread a sticky fluid that causes itching sensation. These tiny eggs then get transferred to the host’s mouth through contact with fingers, clothing, etc. Itching sensation automatically sends the fingers to the site to alleviate it and later the fingers do their job of transferring the eggs unintentionally.

Some of the pinworms that come out to lay eggs around the anal region may even end up into the urogenital area in female hosts and cause other complications mentioned the paragraph above. Pinworm infects mostly children but also many adults who may not follow strict personal hygiene. Both prevention and treatment of pinworm infection are not difficult if done properly.


Keep your fingernails well-trimmed so that parasites do not settle down under the nails. Those who wish to maintain long fingernails should take extra care to clean up under the nails at least twice a day. Wash your hands with soap and water before food and after toilet. Do the same when you help change diapers, etc. Avoid putting fingers into the mouth.  Those who are infected should also avoid co-bathing in a tub. Taking shower (instead of bathing in a bathtub) is preferable during the period of infection. All clothing and bed sheets that may have come into contact with the body must be thoroughly washed before reusing or storing. Change undergarments every time after bathing (includes shower).

Since pinworm auto-reinfection is possible by scratching the bottom (where pinworm eggs may be found) and then inadvertently touching the mouth, both these actions must be avoided. If there is itching down there, one should clean the area with soap and then clean the hand as well. Go to the doctor if itching persists.

Pinworm can also easily get inside the mouth through many items coming into contact with hand such as handkerchief, bed linen, towels, undergarments, night dress, toilet and bathroom fittings, drinking glasses, eating plates and common toys. Therefore these must be disinfected regularly. Public sand boxes/pits and ball pits/boxes in children’s play areas are potential infection zones for several contagious diseases including pinworm.

Public Toilets: Public toilet seats are particularly great sites for pinworm eggs, hence receiving pinworm infection directly on your own seat is pretty easy here. Therefore, if you are not sure that the toilet seat was disinfected before you use it, avoid direct skin contact with it. You could use toilet paper to cover it. For more information on personal cleaning at the public restroom, click here.

Bathroom fixtures and toys, too, provide contact points for this infection. Therefore do keep these items cleaned regularly; and where not possible, clean immediately any part of your body that touches these items so that you and others do not get infected through these material. 


Consult your family doctor.

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3. Roundworm infection

ROUNDWORM Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Roundworm is the common large worm that lives in human intestine and seen coming out in the stools. The roundworm eggs produced in the intestine and passed through stools contaminate the soil where open defecation is practiced. Here these eggs develop into embryonic stage and become invasive and infective. Infection takes place when these embryonic eggs are carried into the mouth through direct or indirect contact with the contaminated soil, raw vegetables and improperly washed fruits, etc. The embryonic eggs reach the intestine through the mouth and then hatch there. The tiny larvae then migrate to the lungs through our blood vessels or lymphatic route and grow for a few days. After this the larvae move up the respiratory tract when these get coughed up and swallowed, taking the grown larvae back into the intestine. Here they become adults and start laying. And the cycle continues unless it is broken by active intervention. For a PowerPoint presentation of the life cycle click here.


Avoid direct or indirect contact with soil or organic manure where open defecation may be practiced. Personal hygiene including keeping hands clean will always important. Do not eat any raw vegetables grown in contaminated soil.


Consult your doctor

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4. Tapeworm infection or Taeniasis or Cysticercosis 

TAPEWORM Life History Public Domain, Wiki Commons

TAPEWORM Life History
Public Domain, Wiki Commons

For details of this disease including prevention and treatment, see WHO Fact Sheets.


Do not eat partially cooked meat, especially pork. Practice good personal hygiene. Avoid taking unpurified water and improperly cleaned raw vegetables/fruits. 


Consult your doctor.

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