Hookworm is a common helminthic disease that occurs when parasites infect small intestine. Hookworms are a type of roundworms; they are about 5-10 mm long and grayish-white or pinkish in color. They have a hook-shaped body, as their head is bent towards the rest part of the body, thus resembling a hook. There are several types of hookworms, some of them habitat human, another both human and animals. The most spread species that infect human only are Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale.
Hookworm disease is found in moist tropical and subtropical countries, notably in Middle East, North Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Poor sanitation provokes development and spread of the infection. Still, inappropriate temperature of humidity may prevent eggs from developing, even in places with poor sanitation. The most favorable place for eggs’ developing is moist soil, that’s why it is especially spread in places where people defecate on the ground. When infected person defecates, eggs develop in feces into larvae and stay in the soil until they contact with human. Usually it happens when people walk barefoot or work in the garden. What is special about hookworms is that they come into organism not through the mouth, but they penetrate the skin, leaving an itchy patch on it. Then they come into lungs, from there to the windpipe, where they are swallowed and finally come into intestine.
As hookworms penetrate to organism through the skin, personal hygiene like hand washing is not enough to prevent it. Keep in mind that these parasites are likely to be found in soil, that’s why, in order to prevent the infection, don’t walk barefoot in countries where hookworms are likely to develop. Also you shouldn’t use untrusted soil or feces as fertilizer.
Symptoms and consequences
Hookworm in humans causes a range of unpleasant symptoms. As it was mentioned above, when hookworm penetrates skin, it leaves an itching patch. On the first stages of the disease you may experience abdominal pain, cramps and nausea. When larvae come into lungs, you may experience cough and fever. When mature worm develop in intestine, diarrhea and blood stool often occur. Among other probable symptoms are fatigue and inappetance. On the chronic stages of infection, when number of adult worms increase, disease may have severe consequences, as anemia and ascites (protein loss and fluid accumulating in abdomen). It happens because hookworms suck the blood. It was estimated that one hookworm can suck about 0.1 mL per day, so 1000 hookworms would suck 100mL per day. Still if a person has enough iron and healthy nutrition, he may not have these symptoms for a long time.
Hookworm diagnosis and treatment
If your doctor suspects that you are infected with hookworms, he should examine your stool and blood to reveal whether you have anemia or not. Hookworm infection is usually treated with antihelmenthics and iron supplement to restore blood cells. The following antihelmenthics are prescribed: Albendazole, Mebendazole and Pyrantel.
These medicines are usually taken in one dose, but if in 3 or 4 weeks the infection isn’t gone, it should be repeated. You will probably be asked to improve nutrition as well, in order to increase amount of protein.
Although hookworms are rather easy to get rid of, this infection may cause severe consequences. That’s why you should consult your doctor as soon as possible after revealing any symptoms.
These articles can be used for informational purposes only. To get an accurate diagnosis consult your doctor!
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