Helminthiasis: what should you know about parasites?

Helminthiasis are a large group of parasitic diseases caused by certain types of parasitic worms - helminths. Most helminthiasis have similar clinical manifestations and therapeutic approaches.

Parasites: from Antiquity to the present day

types of human parasites

Common helminthiasis such as enterobiasis and ascariasis have been known for a long time. The invasions of man by tapeworms and bovine roundworms are mentioned as early as the 16th century BC in the ancient Egyptian medical treatise - the Ebers papyrus. Hippocrates himself paid great attention to helminths. It was he who introduced concepts such as "helminthiasis" and "ascariasis".

At the beginning of the 18th century, the German microbiologist Karl Rudolfi collected a whole collection of parasitic worms when studying a large number of animals. Soon the science of parasitic worms appeared - helminthology.

In eighteen hundred and eighty-four, a famous scientist and doctor established a causal relationship between parasitism in the human body of a large tapeworm and the occurrence of anemia in the patient.

An outstanding scientist and academician greatly contributed to the development and formation of helminthology, which organized the first department of parasitology and opened institutions specializing in the study of helminths. On his initiative, more than three hundred parasitological expeditions were carried out, in which he was directly involved.

Parasitologists have described more than five hundred species of parasitic worms that were previously unknown to science. The doctor himself discovered and described more than two hundred new types of helminths and also published more than seven hundred scientific papers.

By the way, it is known that a parasitic infection worsens the course of concomitant, especially chronic and decompensated diseases. Helminthiasis negatively affects growth, working capacity, and also has a depressive effect on the immune system and the human nervous system.

Parasitic infection: varieties of worms

There are three major classes of helminths - tapeworms (cestodes), roundworms (nematodes), fluids (trematodes). Nematodes are roundworms, and tapeworms and fluke are tapeworms. A person can act as an intermediate or final host of parasites.

The agents responsible for helminthiasis such as ascariasis, enterobiasis, trichinosis, hookworm infection, trichocephalosis, strongyloidosis are nematodes. Cestodes cause echinococcosis, alveococcosis, diphyllobothriasis, tapeworm, tapeworm, hymenolepiasis, etc. And trematodes cause, among others, opisthorchiasis, clonorchiasis, paragonimiasis, metagonimosis, fascioliasis.

Depending on the location of the parasites in the body, there are:

  • Translucent helminthiasis.
  • Tissue helminthiasis.
  • Hepatobiliary helminthiasis. In this case, the parasitic infection affects the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts (opisthorchiasis, clonorchiasis).
  • Pulmonary helminthiasis.

There are the following types of helminthiasis:

  • Soil-transmitted helminthiasis. In this case, the parasite develops with the participation of an inanimate substrate (water, soil).
  • Contagious helminthiasis. The development of worms takes place within a micro-organism, such as, for example, with enterobiasis.
  • Biohelminthiasis is the development of helminths with the participation of intermediate hosts. A typical example is the broad tapeworm, which has a complex development cycle with a change of host.

By the way, it has been discovered that intestinal parasites in the body promote the release of Th2 cytokines, which suppress the Th1 cytokine. In this regard, people with helminthic infestations have a higher risk of infection with one or another disease, for example, tuberculosis.

Parasites in the body: main syndromes

abdominal pain in the presence of parasites

The main clinical syndromes of helminthiasis include:

Malnutrition syndrome

It is known that the parasite, being in the human body, consumes the nutrients of its host, which can provoke the appearance of protein-energy deficiency, hypovitaminosis, anemia in the latter. This often happens when the body is affected by tapeworms and roundworms parasitizing the intestines.

Immunosuppressive syndrome

With a long stay in the body, helminths can have an immunosuppressive effect, reducing resistance to various microbial and viral infections.

Toxic and allergic organ damage

It is a whole spectrum of diseases - heart (myocarditis), liver (hepatitis), lungs (pneumonia), brain (encephalopathy). Up to necrotic hemorrhagic lesions of internal organs.

Local tissue damage to organs

Most often it predominates in the chronic phase and is determined by the location of the helminth. So, hookworms and cestodes have a traumatic effect on the intestinal mucosa, opisthorchis damage the bile ducts, schistosomes - the mucous membrane of the large intestine and urinary tract.

By the way, helminthiasis has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccination. Some helminths, for example, schistosomes, opisthorchia, Chinese fluke, can cause the development of carcinogenesis. This is demonstrated by the so-called parasitic cancer theory. Long-term chronic opisthorchiasis, which can ultimately lead to cancer of the bile ducts, is particularly dangerous.

When should I see a doctor?

the doctor prescribes treatment for parasites

Indicate that a person has parasites in the body can be:

  • All kinds of allergic reactions, including unspecified recurrent urticaria, which do not go away even with the use of hormonal and desensitizing drugs.
  • Decrease or, on the contrary, increase in appetite.
  • Exhaustion of the body.
  • Itching in the anal area - especially in the evening or at night.
  • Dyspeptic phenomena.
  • Unstable stools - diarrhea or constipation.
  • Prolonged dry cough (more often at night), in children - prolonged "barking" cough.
  • An increase in the level of eosinophils in the blood - eosinophilia.
  • Anemia, especially vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Asthenic syndrome - general weakness, fatigue, malaise. Of course, these symptoms can be attributed to various diseases. However, nevertheless, with incomprehensible fatigue or increasing mood of a child, a bad night's sleep, nervousness - it makes sense to conduct a study on parasites.

If there is any of the above signs, this is a reason to see a parasitologist or an infectious disease doctor.