Worms (helminths)

Worms (helminths) in the hands of a doctor

Worms are parasitic worms that live in the bodies of humans and animals. They are difficult to detect because they mask many other diseases and conditions. Symptoms of helminth infestation range from mild malaise to fainting with severe intoxication. We will tell you where you can get worms and how to get rid of them.

What is

Worms are considered to be the most common parasites in humans. Today, science knows about 300 worm diseases. The most common are intestinal worm diseases - enterobiosis and ascariasis, which affect more than 2 billion people.

The size of worms living in the body varies from a few millimeters to several meters. For example, the length of the spines that cause enterobiosis does not exceed 1 cm. Some tapeworms (for example, broad tapeworm) reach 12-15 meters.

Causes of helminthiasis

Helminthiasis is a disease in which a worm infection occurs. Worms enter the human body and remain there. These parasites live not only in the intestines but also in other organs and tissues.

According to the World Health Organization, every fourth person on Earth is infected with worms. At the same time, WHO experts note that the real number of infected is at least 50%. This applies mainly to countries with a low sanitary culture (these are some countries in Africa and Southeast Asia). In other countries, more than 1. 5 million cases of helminth infection are reported annually. Most of them are children.

How can you get infected with worms?

There are 4 ways of infection:

  1. Through the soil. Such diseases are called geohelminthiasis. Unwashed fruits can shelter tens of thousands of parasites. That is why it is so important to wash vegetables, fruits and hands well before eating. Walking pets are another source of terrestrial parasites.
  2. In contact with an infected person. Parasitic worms are incredibly prolific. In just one day, the female squirrel is able to lay up to 5, 000 eggs in the human body. Eggs and adults can be passed on to other people through bed linen and other household items. Then it is enough for the infected not to wash their hands and the worms will penetrate inside.
  3. When you eat contaminated food. Such helminthic diseases are called biohelminthiasis. You can catch the parasite by insufficient heat treatment of meat, poultry or fish.
  4. By an insect bite. This type of transmission is rare. As a rule, very small parasites can be transmitted through insect bites.

Consider the risk factors that increase the likelihood of worm infection in adults and children:

  • Ignore hygiene rules - if you do not wash your hands after the street, toilet or before meals.
  • The habit of biting your nails - under them there is a lot of dirt with germs and parasites. This includes the habit of taking pens, pencils and other objects in your mouth.
  • Poor care for pets, especially for those who go outside.
  • Eating unwashed vegetables and fruits.
  • Use of water from dubious sources.
  • Poor cleaning of living quarters.
  • Passion for animal foods that have not undergone proper culinary processing.

Who is at risk

Those who abuse hygiene rules and do not wash their hands are at risk of becoming infected with worms.

No one is immune to worm infections. It is enough to relax on matters of hygiene and the larva of the parasite can "break through" in the body. The following categories of people are particularly susceptible to helminthiasis:

  • Young children. Helminth infestations are most common in children. This is due to the fact that the child ignores the rules of hygiene. Young children put objects in their mouths and often dig in the mud on the streets. In groups, children tend to come into closer contact than adults, which also increases the likelihood of infection.
  • Families with pets. Eggs and larvae of parasites found from the street in living quarters with pets can be anywhere. Often owners of dogs, cats and other animals are not even aware of the problem and learn about the presence of worms when they contact a veterinarian for another reason.
  • Food. Lovers of exotic cuisine such as sushi, raw meat or fish are also at risk.
  • Travelers. This is especially true for people traveling to countries with poor hygiene.
  • Summer residents, agricultural workers. People working in vegetable gardens, orchards or just living in the countryside.
  • People who encounter raw fish or meat in their work. For example, sellers or cooks - in processing, cutting and cooking.

Myth 1: There are no parasites in marine fish.

Many people mistakenly believe that worms are found only in river fish, and they are not in the sea because of the salt water. In fact, marine fish are mainly affected by parasites that are not dangerous to humans. In this respect, raw river fish is more dangerous than raw sea fish. But this does not mean that sea fish is completely safe: it is always recommended to process each fish - to fry thoroughly, boil or freeze for 3 days.

Classification of helminthiasis

There are several classifications of parasitic worms. By localization the worms are:

  • Intestinal - live in the small or large intestine. These include roundworms, eels, tapeworms, tapeworms and more.
  • Pulmonary - live in the tissues of the bronchopulmonary system. Most often it is pulmonary methyl.
  • Tissue - parasitizes on various tissues of the body. Tissue worms include schistosomes, Trichinella, and toxocara.
  • Parasites of the liver and gallbladder. They are liver methyl, liver giant methyl and clonorch (Chinese methyl).

There are 4 classes of helminth diseases, depending on the pathogen:

  • Nematodes - caused by roundworms. These are ascariasis, enterobiosis, trichinosis, trichocephaly, toxocariasis, hookworm and others.
  • Cestodes - the causes are tapeworms. Such pathologies include hymenolepiasis, teniasis, teniarinhiaza, diphyllobotriasis and cistercerosis.
  • Dystomyiasis is a disease caused by flatworms. These are fascioliasis, opisthorchiasis, dicroceliosis.
  • Protozoa - the causative agents are protozoa, such as giardia, toxoplasma or amoeba.

More than 70 species of parasitic worms are common. The most common are the following helminthic diseases (see table).

Helminth infestations
Illness The causative agent and its characteristics Transfer method
Ascariasis It's called a roundworm. These are roundworms that live in the gut. They can grow up to 30-40 cm. Roundworms feed on almost all nutrients from food. In the process of vital activity, worms injure the intestinal walls to perforations Most often, roundworm eggs are transmitted by fecal-oral route. They last a long time in the soil and on the surface of vegetables, fruits, herbs and berries
Enterobiosis It develops when the pinworms enter the body. These are small roundworms, the size of which is 0, 5-1 cm. The main danger in enterobiosis are the toxic waste products of the worms Contact with an infected person. Skeleton eggs remain on different surfaces for some time.
Giardiasis Caused by microscopic parasites - giardia. Pathogens produce toxic substances and damage tissues Giardia is spread by the faecal-oral route, as well as through contaminated food and water
Opisthorchiasis The causes are small worms up to 2 cm in size. Most often they parasitize the liver and bile ducts. In opisthorchiasis, poisoning with toxic substances and mechanical damage to tissues occur The pathogens of opisthorchiasis are transmitted by raw fish
Echinococcosis It is caused by echinococci - tapeworms whose size does not exceed 5 cm. Echinococci parasitize on various tissues, including the heart and brain. Pathogens cause severe disorders of the body's organs and systems. In some cases, they can provoke a malignant tumor process. They are spread through dirty hands and contaminated food. Carriers of echinococci can also be dogs and rodents.
Diphyllobotriasis Causes - large tapeworms, reaching 10-15 meters. Tapeworms live in the small intestine and cause serious damage to the host's body. Worms produce toxic substances and significantly impair the work of the digestive tract It is transmitted by eating raw fish
Trichocephaly Called a whip, a round worm that looks like a hair. Hair can reach 5-6 meters. Worms live in the intestines, penetrating the submucosal layer. They cause intoxication, inflammation and acute anemia The invasion is carried out by swallowing the eggs of the parasite

Red invasions are also classified according to the stages:

  • Acute helminthiasis - appear 2-4 weeks after infection. In this case, the symptoms of worms are observed from 1 week to several months. If you do not carry out therapy, the disease becomes chronic.
  • Chronic helminthiasis - the manifestations depend on the type of parasite. For example, if these are parasites with larval reproduction, then prolonged allergic reactions will follow. Other chronic worms may be asymptomatic or accompanied by pain, malaise, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Complications of helminthiasis

If helminthiasis is not treated, it leads to serious complications, sometimes life-threatening:

  • Anemia - anemia, insufficient number of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood. This condition is due to the fact that worms consume some of the nutrients needed for normal hematopoietic function.
  • Destruction of tissues and organs. Worms live not only in the lumen of the gastrointestinal tract, but also in the thickness of tissues such as liver, lungs, muscles. Tissues are most affected during the migration of worms, when they move from one department (or organ) to another - ulcers and foci of constant inflammation are formed. Against this background, the risk of developing infections and malignant tumors increases.
  • Diseases of the nervous system. This is due to the toxic waste products of worms that poison the body. Nerve tissues are most sensitive to toxins. This can lead to irritability, headaches, insomnia and other signs of damage to the nervous system.
  • Allergic reactions. Toxic substances released by worms can also act as allergens. The human immune system may react inadequately to these substances. This leads to the appearance of typical allergic symptoms - rashes, reddening of the skin, itching, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.
One feels constant fatigue in the presence of worms in the body

The presence of worms in the body also leads to a lack of the following minerals:

  • Zinc. In the absence of zinc, immunity decreases, a person often catches a cold and suffers from other infectious diseases. The likelihood of developing prostatitis and infertility increases, as this trace element is extremely important for the health of the reproductive system.
  • Selenium. Decreases immunity and also increases the risk of malignant tumors.
  • Iodine. Iodine deficiency in children leads to stunted growth and development (physical and mental). In adults, the work of the thyroid gland deteriorates, metabolic processes slow down.
  • Manganese. In the absence of manganese, the bones become brittle. A person loses weight quickly, he is often worried about spasms and dermatitis.
  • Chrome. Deficiency of this element leads to developmental delay and impaired carbohydrate metabolism.

Worms and immunity

Worms are often accompanied by other parasites - toxoplasma and chlamydia. This is due to suppression of immunity. A healthy body is able to resist the invaders, but in helminthiasis the protection is weakened. Toxoplasmosis is especially dangerous during pregnancy as it can lead to fetal death.

Symptoms of helminthiasis

The symptoms of worms are varied in both adults and children. The most common symptoms are:

  • itching in the anus is the most common symptom of intestinal worms;
  • gnashing of teeth in sleep - occurs due to toxins released by worms;
  • drooling in sleep and in the morning;
  • nausea when brushing teeth in the morning;
  • peeling of the skin of the hands and feet;
  • allergic skin rashes;
  • strong feeling of hunger, to fainting;
  • swelling (often allergic);
  • itchy skin;
  • chronic fatigue;
  • headache and dizziness;
  • mental disorders for no apparent reason (stress, neurosis, depression);
  • bloating;
  • symptoms of intestinal disorders;
  • change in body weight (both overweight and weakness);
  • the simultaneous course of several diseases (or the sequence of one disease to another);
  • spasms or pulling pains in the abdomen;
  • anemia;
  • retardation of physical and mental development in children;
  • childhood hyperactivity or lethargy;
  • enlarged lymph nodes (often in the acute stage of helminthiasis).

When to see a doctor

A therapist or infectious disease specialist deals with the treatment of parasitic diseases. You should consult a doctor if you find one or more of the above symptoms. Due to the rather complex system of masking worms, you need to explain the symptoms to the doctor as accurately as possible, as well as talk about your lifestyle: what food you prefer, whether you have traveled recently and where, whether there are pets, etc. n.

Diagnosis of the disease

The simplest test that shows the presence of worms is a stool test

If the doctor suspects a helminthic invasion, then it is not difficult to identify. The following diagnostic procedures are used for this purpose:

  • Examination of stool. A stool sample is submitted to the laboratory. They may contain eggs or larvae of parasites that live in the gut.
  • Scraping for enterobiosis. A swab with a cotton swab is taken from the anus. With this analysis, pinworms can be identified. Scraping should be done early in the morning before going to the toilet.
  • Blood test for antibodies. This is a very informative test with which you can identify many parasites. However, even with a positive result, there is no 100% guarantee that the parasites are still in the patient's body, as the antibodies remain even after their elimination.
  • Instrumental diagnostics. The use of radiography, MRI and CT with the use of contrast agents. These diagnostic methods make it possible to identify both large worms and some pathological changes in the tissues caused by helminthic invasion.

As a rule, the doctor prescribes various tests to increase the reliability of the data obtained. Sometimes the patient needs to be tested several times to make an accurate diagnosis.

Important!When confirming helminthiasis, it is necessary to inform other close family members about it. Examination for them is also recommended. If the test is positive, it is important that all infected family members receive treatment. Otherwise, the eggs of the parasites will re-enter the body of the recovered person and everything will have to be repeated from the beginning.

Treatment of helminths in children and adults

Despite the abundance of antiparasitic drugs in pharmacies, you can not take them alone. By prescribing a complete treatment, the doctor strives not only to eliminate the parasites, but also to eliminate the consequences of their vital activity.

As a rule, in addition to anthelmintic drugs, the patient is prescribed vitamins and other drugs that eliminate the symptoms of the disease. The doctor chooses medications separately for each patient, as the symptoms are different for each.

Drugs for the treatment of helminthiasis

In helminthic invasions, patients are prescribed a complex of the following drugs:

  • Anthelmintic drugs. These are anthelmintic drugs that either remove or kill worms. These goals are achieved by disrupting the metabolism of parasites or by paralyzing their muscles. In the latter case, they lose their ability to remain in the intestine and are excreted.
  • Antihistamines. If the patient is allergic to parasites, then during treatment doctors prescribe anti-allergic drugs. This is extremely important because the mass death of worms releases a large number of allergens that can provoke a severe allergic reaction. Antihistamines block the production of histamine, the main mediator of the allergic reaction.
  • Enterosorbents. These are drugs that are able to bind substances in the gastrointestinal tract. During the treatment of worms, enterosorbents are used to bind and remove toxic substances secreted by the worms.
  • Vitamins and minerals. B vitamins (folic acid and B12) and iron supplements are most commonly prescribed. This is necessary to treat anemia.
  • Hepatoprotectors. These are drugs that protect the liver from toxic substances. These include preparations based on phospholipids or plant materials (milk thistle, artichoke, licorice, St. John's wort and other plants).
  • Probiotics and prebiotics. It is prescribed to restore the intestinal microflora. Probiotics are live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are indigestible nutrients (such as fiber) that ferment only from the intestinal flora.


In most cases, it is enough to take a set of drugs. Sometimes, however, doctors are still forced to resort to surgery. For example, a large accumulation of roundworms can cause intestinal obstruction. This is an emergency that requires surgery.

Worms can accumulate in the bile duct, against which obstructive jaundice and even liver abscess develop. The same situation can occur in the pancreas, leading to acute pancreatitis. If the worms enter the appendix, appendicitis develops. All of these conditions require prompt surgery.

Surgery is often resorted to when the organs are damaged by echinococcus. These parasites accumulate, forming echinococcal plugs in the liver, lungs, bones, kidneys and even the brain. The danger of such a plug is that it can fester and burst.

Folk remedies for the treatment of worms

Folk remedies for worms are not as effective as anthelmintics. This is only an auxiliary method - the main treatment is prescribed by a doctor.

Folk remedies include pumpkin seeds, which contain cucurbitin, a substance that has anthelmintic action.

Myth 2: Garlic enemas get rid of worms

Worms really do not like garlic because it contains phytoncides - antibacterial and antiparasitic substances. However, it is not necessary to make enemas with garlic for helminthiasis. There are very few worms in the colon where the enema is injected. Most parasites live in the small intestine, so this procedure is useless. In addition, from such an enema you can get a serious irritation of the mucous membranes.

Prevention and precautions

The simplest rule to prevent helminthiasis is to always wash your hands with soap and water.

In most cases, the prognosis for the treatment of helminthiasis is favorable. A timely visit to the doctor will avoid a number of complications caused by worms.

Worm prevention comes down to following these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before eating, after returning from the street, using the toilet or after contact with animals.
  • Wash vegetables, fruits and herbs thoroughly. It is better to fill them with boiling water.
  • Do not use other people's hygiene items and utensils.
  • Give up bad habits (smoking, alcohol).
  • Avoid stress, it will have a beneficial effect on immunity.
  • Regularly show your pet to the veterinarian, vaccinate in a timely manner.
  • Every year, undergo a comprehensive preventive examination, including tests for worm eggs.
  • Cook meat, poultry, fish and eggs properly.

Myth 3: Parasites die in frozen meat.

This only applies to some worms. For example, bovine tapeworm does die when the meat is deep-frozen (minus 12 or less). And for example, Trichinella larvae can be eliminated only after 2-3 hours of cooking.


The main cause of helminth infestations is inadequate hygiene. Improving sanitation and proper cooking of animal food significantly reduces the likelihood of helminthiasis. In most cases, worms do not pose a danger to human health if detected in time. But the lack of treatment still leads to serious consequences - anemia, damage to the nervous system and other infections.