Ascariasis is one of the most common human intestinal parasitic infections, caused by the roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides. This infection is brought to you by swallowing this worm’s fertilized egg, typically via contaminated food or water.
Contamination is usually through human feces found in heavily populated areas lacking proper waste disposal. Although, Ascaris infection may be transmitted when food is grown in fertilizer containing human feces, which is then eaten without a thorough washing.
The means by which a swallowed egg develops into a mature upper intestinal dwelling worm requires a journey through your lungs. The process for ascariasis development goes like this:
First, you swallow a fertilized Ascaris egg. This egg passes into your intestines where it hatches into larva. The Ascaris larva then migrates through the intestinal wall and travels to the lungs, via your bloodstream or lymphatic system. Once in your lungs, it makes its way up your bronchial tree and exits into your throat. It is then swallowed, finally returning to your small intestine for growth and fertilized egg production. You now excrete fertilized eggs that can potentially infect another with ascariasis parasitic worm infection.
The entire series of events, from swallowed egg to new eggs produced, takes a couple of months.
Fertilized eggs causing ascariasis must be out in the soil for a couple of weeks for development before they’re infective. So, freshly excreted eggs won’t cause ascariasis infectious disease. And ascariasis is not directly contagious.
While Ascaris larvae moves through your lungs it can cause wheezing lung symptoms, along with:
Your wheezing and other lung symptoms are similar to those of pneumonia.
If only a few Ascaris roundworms fully develop in your intestines, you’ll likely experience just vague intestinal stomach pain symptoms, or none at all. However, if you are heavily infected with worms, then it can cause intestinal blockage symptoms and other parasite infection signs, like:
- skin rash
- worms in stool
- vomiting worms
- nausea & vomiting
- severe abdominal pain
Ascariasis to the degree of causing an intestinal obstruction can be fatal.
Ascariasis treatment is taking mebendazole, albendazole or pyrantel pamoate drugs to paralyze or kill this intestinal parasitic worm. Most recover from intestinal stomach pain symptoms with little, if any, drug side effects.