Ascaridiasis: symptoms and treatment

Ascaridiasis it is an infection caused by the intestinal worm Ascaris lumbricoides. It is the most frequent human infection caused by earthworms in the world.

Ascariasis is much more frequent in developing countries where sanitary conditions are deficient. As well, is common in areas where human faeces are used as fertilizer. When the eggs are ingested and they reach the intestine, they hatch and become larvae.

How is ascaridiasis transmitted?

The infection starts when Ascaris eggs are ingested, usually in contaminated food. In turn, food is contaminated through contact with soil that in turn has been contaminated with human feces containing eggs.

Ascaris eggs are hardy and can survive on land for years. Once ingested, ascaris eggs hatch and release the larvae in the intestine. Each larva migrates through the wall of the small intestine and is carried by the lymphatic vessels and the bloodstream to the lungs.

The larva matures in the small intestine, where it remains as an adult worm, this process takes 2 to 3 months. The adult worms reach between 15 and 50 cm long and between 0.25 and 0.5 cm in diameter; they live 1 or 2 years.

The eggs laid by the adult worms are excreted in the feces, they develop in the earth and return to initiate the infectious cycle if they are ingested again.


Most people with ascariasis have no symptoms. But nevertheless, Ascaridiasis causes different symptoms according to the part of the affected body.

Ascaridiasis in the lungs

Once you eat eggs, these are incubated in the small intestine and then the larvae move through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system to the lungs.

Symptoms similar to those of asthma or pneumonia may occur, These include persistent cough, shortness of breath and wheezing when breathing. After 6 or 10 days, the larvae go to the throat.

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Intestinal ascariasis

Within the small intestine, the larvae mature and become adult worms, which usually live in the intestines until they die. In mild or moderate ascariasis, The intestinal infestation can cause the following symptoms:

However, if ascaridiasis is more severe, symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, weight loss, and vomiting may appear. presence of worms in the stool and vomiting.

Which is the treatment?

For the treatment Antiparasitic medications are given with albendazole, mebendazole or ivermectin, which are taken orally to eliminate intestinal worms. Sometimes, it is necessary to analyze the stools approximately 3 weeks after the administration of the treatment to check for eggs.

In some cases it is necessary to surgically remove the worms, particularly in cases of intestinal obstruction, obstruction of the hepatic routes or abdominal infection. To avoid possible reinfestations, It is advisable to adopt the following precautions:

  • Wash, peel and cook all raw vegetables and fruits before eating. Especially those that have been cultivated in areas where human faeces are used as fertilizer.
  • Perform a proper hand washing, especially after defecating, urinating and before meals.
  • Carry regularly the pets that live with the family to the vet to check if they have worms.
  • Keep nails short and clean.
  • Wash contaminated clothing, such as pajamas and bedding, at high temperature.

Read also: 5 home remedies for earthworms

Complications of ascariasis

Mild cases of ascariasis do not usually cause complications. But nevertheless, If the infestation is important, the complications can be dangerous. These include the following:

  • Growth retardation: loss of appetite and poor absorption of digested foods mean that sufficient nutrition is not received, which can delay growth.
  • Blocking and intestinal perforation: If the infestation is important, the mass of worms can block a part of the intestine. In addition, it can cause abdominal cramps and vomiting. The blockage may even perforate the intestinal wall or the appendix. For this reason, there may be internal bleeding or appendicitis.