Hookworms


What exactly are Hookworms?

Hookworms are parasitic nematodes (roundworms) that live in the intestine and feed off of blood. They are called hookworms as they have hooks on their mouth that help them attach to the intestines of their hosts. They cause an infection known as Helminthiases.  Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus are the two species that cause infection in humans. Around 85% of the infections are caused by Necator americanus followed by Ancylostoma duodenale.

Hookworms, which are usually contracted through larvae that are present in soil contaminated by human feces, affect the lungs, small intestine and skin.

Helminthiases is more common in developing countries that experience a hot and moist climate. Hookworm infections are also likely to happen in farms or places where humans and animals live together. Poor sanitation and proper waste disposal reduce the risk of infection.

What does a hookworm look like?

Ancylostoma duodenale worms are pale grey or light pink in color. Its head is a little bent compared to the rest of the body, forming a hooked shape. These worms have powerfully built mouths with hooks and two pairs of teeth. In terms of size, the males are slightly smaller and leaner than females, measuring one centimeter by 0.5 millimeters. Males have a prominent copulatory bursa, which is used for grasping the female during mating.

Necator americanus is usually smaller than Ancylostoma duodenale. The main difference between these two species is that the N. americanus has a pair of cutting plates instead of teeth. The hook is also more prominent in the N. americanus.

How do you get Hookworms?

Hookworms are transmitted when people come in contact with soil that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person. This is common in places where human feces are used as a fertilizer. The feces of an infected person contain thousands of hookworm eggs, which contaminate the soil when the person defecates. After hatching in about 2 days (under favorable conditions), the larvae grow in the feces or the soil. After 5 to 10 days they become infective and they can survive up to 3 to 4 weeks in the environment.

The larvae burrow into the skin of a person when he/she come in contact with the infected soil. This happens when the person walks barefoot, touches the soil. The larvae also enter the body when a person consumes raw/unwashed vegetables grown in the contaminated soil.

After entering the body through the skin, the larvae travel to the body’s bloodstream or lymphatic systems. They are then transported to the lungs, where they are coughed up and swallowed. They then attach themselves to the person’s intestines, where they start absorbing nutrients through the blood. Mating occurs in the small intestine and thousands of eggs are passed on through the feces. A hookworm may live inside a person for up to 2 years.

Who are at the risk of getting hookworms?

Like any disease, there are certain groups of people who are more prone to getting a hookworm infection. These groups include:

  • People living in developing countries that have tropical or sub-tropical climates.
  • People who work or spend time in areas that have poor sanitation
  • Pregnant women
  • Children who spend a lot of time playing outdoors
  • People who are constantly exposed to contaminated soil
  • People living in areas who rely on fertilizers made up of human feces.

History of hookworm infections

Evidence of hookworm infections dates back to thousands of years, with the disease being described by ancient Egyptians in their papyrus papers. In more recent times, the disease was rampant in miners in England, France, and Germany. The hookworm was discovered by Italian physician Angelo Dubini in 1838 while performing an autopsy.

The real breakthrough came in 1880, when Italian physicians Camillo Bozzolo, Edoardo Perroncito, and Luigi Pagliani correctly concluded that hookworm infections were linked to unsanitary practices and the parasite’s point of entry was through the skin. They came to this conclusion after there was an anemia epidemic among Italian men working on a rail tunnel. It was found out that the workers defecated inside the tunnel and most of them wore torn shoes.

Where is hookworm infection most common?

The highest cases of hookworm infections happen in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, followed by the tropical region of the Americas. In terms of countries, India has the highest number of hookworm cases followed by Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. China also used to have a high number of hookworm infections, however, the rapid economic growth and development of the country has seen a decline in the disease.

Rural areas of tropical and less developed countries have the highest prevalence of the disease due to the environment and socioeconomic conditions favoring transmission. Climate is a crucial factor when it comes to hookworm transmission as the larvae (that are presented in the contaminated soil) require moisture and warm temperature to thrive. Another important factor that contributes to the high prevalence of hookworm infection is poverty. This is due to poorer region having inadequate sanitation and waste disposal.

Symptoms

The hookworm symptom starts with a skin rash when it enters a person’s body. The rash is usually red, raised and itchy. After that, most infected people don’t experience any symptoms at all. However, if the infection is severe the patients may experience:

  • Iron deficiency anemia or malnutrition
  • Protein deficiency
  • Weight loss
  • Wheezing, and coughing
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness or exhaustion

Complications

 Although Hookworm infections are usually not fatal in humans, it may cause serious damage if left untreated. Worms, after a period of time, may start feeding on tissue and this results in internal blood loss, malnutrition, and severe anemia. This is especially dangerous in children as it can have a serious impact on their physical and cognitive development.

Diagnosis

Hookworm infections are diagnosed via stool tests. The stool sample is examined under a microscope to identify eggs. The eggs may be difficult to identify in light infections so a concentration procedure usually is recommended.

The concentration procedure is more effective as the parasites are separated from the fecal debris (via flotation and sedimentation techniques) and this increases the chances of detection especially when the organisms are in small numbers.

How is it treated?

Hookworm infections are effectively treated by anthelminthic medications (drugs that kill parasitic worms). Albendazole, mebendazole, and pyrantel pamoate are the three widely used drugs for hookworm infections.

Albendazole 400 mg is orally taken once, while mebendazole 100 mg is taken orally daily for 3 days. Pyrantel pamoate 11 mg/kg (up to a maximum of 1 g) is also taken daily orally for 3 days. People who have anemia as a result of hookworm infections may also be prescribed iron supplements.  Hookworm infections usually disappear in three days after taking the medications.

What kills hookworm larvae?

The hookworm larvae cannot stand direct sunlight so it is advisable to encourage pets to sit in sunny locations outside the house. Some of the compounds that kill the larvae are Salt brine, diluted bleach, and borax. You should regularly treat your backyard with these compounds to cut the risk of catching an infection. However, the removal of hookworm larvae from the soil can be difficult if the area has a thick growth of grass or other plant life. In such cases, you could burn off the grass and plant life to kill the larvae. However, always be careful while using fire.

Prevention

The most important thing that can prevent hookworm infections is proper sanitation and the use of latrines and toilets. In endemic regions, there should be regular mass administration of an anthelmintic medication such as albendazole or mebendazole. Meanwhile, tourists should always wear shoes or sandals while visiting these regions.

Fruits and vegetables (especially salads) should also be washed properly before consumption as a precaution to avoid the risk of catching this disease. Vaccinating and deworming pets should also be done to cut the risk of getting a hookworm infection. Prompt disposal of the feces of animals prevents soil contamination and this is an effective way to control this disease.

If you live in a hookworm prevalent zone, you should regularly clean your yard and house. All pet feces should be removed from the yard on a daily basis. Pets should be trained to defecate in the same place in the yard to make cleaning easier. Children should be encouraged to wash their hands after playing in the dirt especially before eating. People should also always wear shoes and gloves while working in the yard or the garden. 

 

Facts

  • Despite it being an easily treatable condition, an estimated 576-740 million people in the world are infected with hookworm
  • Hookworm infections were widespread in the Southeastern United States. However, the disease declined after proper sanitation was introduced in the early 20th century.

Facts

  • A female hookworm lays approximately 5,000 and 10,000 eggs a day for up to ten years.
  • The average life span of hookworms are four to six years

Facts

  • An average hookworm consumes around 0.03 to 0.15 milliliters of blood every day.
  • Humans do not build immunity towards hookworm infection.
  • Hookworm infections cause about 60,000 deaths annually.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Immediately see a doctor and start taking deworming medicines.
  • Start taking iron-rich foods such as spinach, legumes, pumpkin seeds if you develop anemia.
  • Get yourself checked for hookworms if you’ve recently traveled to a developing country that has a tropical climate.
Don'ts
  • Opt for alternative treatment if you have a hookworm infection
  • Defecate in the open if you are suffering from this disease as you are likely to pass it on to others
  • Have anal sex if you have hookworms

 

 

 

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Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
11 unbelievable health benefits of thyme you didn’t know! Thyme is a herb that has been used in alternative medicine.It is a well known seasoning in the…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Tissue Transglutaminase Antibody (tTG) Test Transglutaminase is an enzyme present in our body and is involved in protein metabolism. A tTg test is…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
Beware of these common foods that cause high bodily inflammation! Maybe its the long list of inflammatory foods in your diet that is making you frequently sick. Find…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
quinoa salad
Quinoa : A prodigious superfood you need to include in your diet today! Quinoa - what is so special about this native South American grain that has taken the world by…
L-theanine attention
L-Theanine: Better sleep, higher focus, and many other benefits Did you know that L-theanine found in green tea can make you sleep better and be focused at…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
bananas exercise
10 health reasons why you should go “bananas” over bananas! Bananas:The world's most popular fruit comes with a host of unbelievable health benefits. Find out how you can…
ashwagandha brain
Ashwagandha: The best-kept secret of Ayurveda now revealed! Ashwagandha literally means "smell of horse". Don't get bogged down by that one tiny detail because this ayurveduic…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
lp-pla2
LP-PLA2 Test The LP-PLA2 test is a test which is carried out to assess the levels of Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shoudler exercises
Keep your shoulders pain-free with these shoulder exercises Shoulder exercises are important in order to prevent chronic back and neck pain. Learn more about how you…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…