Ascariasis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Askariasis is a small intestinal infection caused by roundworms, and is the most common type of intestinal worm infection. These infections often occur in areas where food and drink are not safe and are exposed to human feces. Symptoms depend on the position of roundworms in the body, but there are some complications when roundworms have accumulated a lot in the body.

In Indonesia, given the frequent occurrence of ascariasis, it is the responsibility of the puskesmas to hold a routine distribution of stomach worm medication to infants and toddlers, given the complications of intestinal worms in infants and toddlers, namely on growth and development problems.

Causes of Ascariasis

Ascariasis is an intestinal infection caused by the Ascaris Lumbricoides worm which is a roundworm species.

Roundworms are a type of parasitic worm. Infections caused by roundworms are relatively common. About 10 percent of developing countries are infected with intestinal worms, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. However, intestinal worms like this are not common in the United States, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ascariasis often occurs in areas that do not use latrines so that environmental sanitation is poor. This parasitic worm transmits through water and unhealthy food. Infection often has no symptoms, but a buildup of adult stomach worms can create problems in the lungs or intestines of humans.

You can become infected with ascariasis after accidentally ingesting Ascaris Lumbricoides eggs. Eggs can be found in soil contaminated with human feces or food that is not cooked properly in contaminated soil containing roundworm eggs. Children are often infected because of the habit of putting their hands in their mouths after playing on the ground, according to WHO data. Ascariasis can also be transmitted directly from human to human.

After being swallowed by humans, Ascaris Lumbricoides reproduces in the human digestive tract. This roundworm will experience several stages of growth:

  • Swallowed eggs will hatch in the intestine
  • Worm larvae will move into the bloodstream to the lungs
  • When the larvae have matured, roundworms leave the lungs and head to the throat
  • You will cough so that you get the worm out of your mouth or alive, or you may swallow the worm again. Swallowed worms will return to the intestine
  • When the worm returns to the intestine, the worm will spawn more eggs
  • The cycle will continue. Some eggs will come out of the feces and others will hatch and then return to the lungs.

Who is at risk for ascariasis?

Roundworms are found all over the world but are most often found in tropical and subtropical countries, including South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Worms are also common in areas with poor sanitation.

Environmental risk factors:

  • Lack of modern hygiene and sanitation infrastructure
  • The use of human feces as fertilizer
  • Live in a warm climate or visit an area with a warm climate.
  • Exposure (contamination) to the outside environment when exposed to soil or dust containing eggs

Exposure to roundworms can be limited by avoiding unhealthy foods and drinks. Keep the environment clean. This involves washing clothes exposed to unclean conditions and washing all surfaces of food to be cooked.

Roundworms in children aged 3-8 years are also often affected by this ascariasis infection.

Symptoms of Ascariasis

You may not be aware of the initial symptoms of ascariasis. Symptoms will arise when the worm has matured.

Roundworms reaching the lungs will cause:

  • Coughing or choking
  • Vomiting that secretes adult worms
  • Wheezing breath or shortness of breath.

Roundworms in the intestines can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Gag
  • Unusual form of stool
  • Worming feces
  • Stomach pain
  • Lost weight.

Some people with adult worm buildup are able to provide other symptoms such as fatigue and fever. Massive buildup can cause discomfort so the patient does need adequate treatment.

Complications of Askariasis

Most cases of ascariasis have mild symptoms and do not cause major problems. However, a large buildup of adult worms can cause complications. Harmful complications occur when worms gather in certain areas of the body, such as:

  • Blockage in the intestine occurs when a group of adult worms block the intestine and cause severe pain and vomiting. Blockage in the intestine is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate therapy
  • Blockage in the ducts occurs when worms block the flow in the liver or pancreas
  • Infection that causes loss of appetite and poor absorption resulting in growth and development problems. This can put children at risk of malnutrition and ultimately affect the development of brain function and so on.

Diagnosis of Askariasis

People in the early stages of ascariasis have no symptoms. How to diagnose intestinal parasites, the doctor will use blood and stool samples to make the diagnosis. X-rays of the abdomen can also be used to diagnose ascariasis. If the doctor diagnoses ascariasis, the doctor will recommend additional tests for imaging so that it can show how many adult worms, where worms gather (to avoid blockages) and whether the worms go to the internal organs of the body.

Tests can include: CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, and endoscopy (inserting a small camera into the body)

It is important for your doctor to determine how long you have been affected by Askariasis so that you can evaluate possible complications.

Treating Ascariasis

Roundworms are usually treated with antiparasitic drugs. Roundworm medications usually include: albendazole, ivermectin, or mebendazole. In severe cases, other therapies are needed, and surgery is needed to overcome the blockage.

What is the condition of ascariasis in the future?

Many people recover from ascariasis with minimal therapy. Symptoms can go away even though worms are still present in the body. However, Askarasis can cause complications when there is an accumulation of adult worms. You need to contact a doctor if you think you have ascariasis.

Prevention of Ascariasis

The best way to avoid ascariasis is to maintain good hygiene and eat in a clean place. Always wash hands with soap and water before eating or before handling food, and after bowel movements and urinating. Teach your child to do the same. When traveling, drink from bottled drinks and avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless you are able to wash the fruits and vegetables clean.

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