The Seven Deadly Sins: Parasitic Worm Diseases


JACKSONVILLE, Alabama – Whether you have a phobia or an extreme dislike toward them, certain worms make the world go round with their effectiveness in enriching soil nutrients for plants and natural ability to produce vital elements that give us our way of life. However, there are a plethora of worms that serve as parasites that hold a highly disturbing effect on human lives virtually anywhere on the planet. Parasitic worm diseases are common all over the globe, especially in areas of low-sanitary health.

When thinking of parasitic worms, one cannot help but automatically imagine the instant tapeworm. The vile pathogen is found in undercooked pork and beef. Once ingested, the worm breeds within the human intestines and oftentimes feasts on portions of the brain, resulting in deadly seizures.

As documented in the 2004 BBC “Eaten Alive” documentary, there have been instances in which the worm exits via the rectal area once “its mission is complete.” It will present itself as a lengthy paper-thin organism, almost in the form of an accordion-like segment. And although this worm can be treated with certain antibiotics, it is a parasite of which one should be extremely cautious.

Another treacherous wormy threat is the common case of pinworm, typically found in the most unexpected places. The irritating pathogen latches onto children, who are the most susceptible. Commonly referred to as a “seatworm” or “threadworm,” the pathogenic nuisance is known for causing severe inflammation within the rectal area in children and is heavily prone to reinfection if not medically treated properly with the likes of over-the-counter creams.

Other parasitic worms, however, take the cake for more severe, consequential symptoms. Parasitic worm diseases can range from easily treatable to deadly.

Hookworm, a once-notorious pathogen that was widespread in southeastern regions in the United States like Florida, serves as an enormous contributor to an estimated 740 million disease-related cases worldwide. The dirty soil-transmitted worm breeds within the small intestine and is frequently contracted if walking barefoot upon contaminated soil.

The most frequent occurrences derive from outdoor human defecation near bushes, where larvae eggs of the hookworm typically hatch and ready their penetration to harvest within a person’s skin, waiting for their unsuspecting victim to step on their territory. Once in the skin, symptoms may or may not occur at a fast pace but blood loss and protein loss are high potential risk factors.

Similar to that of the hookworm, the sly whipworm is also found in outdoor human defecation and typically holds 795 million people in horrendous threat of global disease-related cases, roughly 50 million more than that of hookworm cases. However, unlike the hookworm, the parasitic threat lives within the large intestine, causing painful stools, and is normally ingested via contaminated soil-coated hands and improperly washed or peeled vegetables or fruits.

With painful symptoms in perspective, nematodes such as the roundworm parasite Wuchereria bancrofti contribute to over 100 million infected cases in tropical regions and serve as the developing trigger to elephantiasis, a lymphatic-destroying disease that causes massive swelling in the limbs and genitals. Frequently caused by sources such as mosquito bites, fecal contamination or undercooked meat, the parasitic nematode can grow as long as 10 centimeters and cause a hefty amount of pain.

Especially painful for the male gender, as documented in the BBC “Eaten Alive” special, it was unearthed that in one instance an unsuspecting tropical native urinated in an open pond, the perfect breeding ground for the parasitic nematodes. Because the pathogen is strongly attracted to human urine, the parasite lodged itself into the native’s penis, initiating severe blockage and immediate swelling. Luckily, the man was able to have it removed via medical surgery. Many others face medical financial restraints that prevent them from seeking such treatment.

Although the aforementioned nematode can create an unimaginable sense of pain, another nematode parasite could produce just about or twice that amount. The often overlooked African eye worm is a horrendous parasite that is transmitted from the bite of deerflies.

Notorious for breeding within the human eyeball, this parasitic disaster is largely present within the Western and Central parts of Africa. The life-threatening worm has yet to meet strongly effective vaccinated treatment, as the only viable tool for immediate recovery is surgical extraction.

Last but not least, no other parasitic worm has created such an immense amount of pain and torture than the harrowing Guinea worm, another overlooked pathogenic crisis that caused an epidemic of 3.5 million cases in Africa during the 1980s. Typically found in contaminated water, Guinea worms are known for breeding within the interior tissue of human legs and feet.

Painfully noted, one single worm can discharge up to one million eggs. Moreover, it is an incurable pathogen that typically takes up to six weeks for medically assisted removal. With the lack of a clinically ready vaccination however, treatment for the disease has been progressive. Only 126 reported cases have been seen worldwide recently thanks in part to philanthropic contributions yielded from groups like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s humanitarian unit, The Carter Center.

With these seven aforementioned “deadly sins” needing a range of treatment from maximal to minimal, one should be very cautious of their sanitary health, and more importantly should be weary of their outdoor surroundings, especially of where they step. There’s no telling what could “crawl inside” you.

Jeff Varner

Sources: CDC 1, CDC 2, CDC 3, CDC 4, The American Phytopathological Society, CDC 5, CDC 6
Photo: Huffington Post


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