WARNING: Some of the pictures are kind of gross in this section!
Roundworms (Also known as Nematodes) includes Ascarids, Hookworms, Stongyloids, Heartworms, and Whipworms
Wow, where do I start? I guess I’ll just focus on those roundworms that can cause disease in humans which are passed through animals (zoonotic). Many pets have their own kind of roundworms that are not passed to humans. The safest bet here is to worm all your pets and livestock regularly and wash your hands after exposure to dirt or feces of ANY kind! And the thing is? Your doctor does not know your history and even you may have forgotten what you played with, that you loved the beach and sand, or were exposed via dirt or cleaning something. This is why I’m writing so much about symptoms and signs in these pages. Sometimes you have to do your own investigative work to convince the doctors which tests to do or to try a prophylactic worming.
Optimally, it’s best to get an identification as to which type of worm to treat so that it can be treated correctly. So, a fecal sample, urinalysis, ELISA blood test or some type of biopsy can be important tests. And hopefully the lab will have a parasitologist on staff and that the parasite worms will show up in the testing. . .
We were taught in our parasitology classes that if you took everything away from the world and left only roundworms, we would be able to see a perfectly formed planet kind of like a skeleton made of roundworms. There are that many roundworms in our soil.
Roundworm statistics: There are over 20,000 classified species of nematodes. This group of parasites have survived for over 370 million years on the Earth and can measure anywhere from less than one mm. up to eight meters in length. The soil can contain as many as 100 million nematodes/sq. m. and many species live 15 to 39 years or longer
Roundworms (depending on the species) can be tiny, look like bean sprouts or Top Ramen, or can be a couple of feet long (like in pig roundworms which can be passed to humans through their feces).
Symptoms of intestinal roundworms in general include: Fevers, cough, wheezing, stomach problems, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping, appendicitis, gas, bloating, increased cramping (menstrual), heart palpitations, pain in the lower right quadrant that comes and goes (spasms in the ileocecal valve), itchy anus’, dry lusterless hair with split ends, seizures, pica appetite (often for sugar), clear mucous strands in the stool (yes you should be looking at it each time you go! And yes, I will ask you what it looks like if you ever consult with me.) People and animals with lots of parasites also have big bellies and lots of diameter below the belly button caused from the intestines losing their tone. Most times worms can be diagnosed by looking at the bowel contents under a microscope or doing a blood test, but not always.
Treatment of Roundworms: Pyrantel pamoate, mebendazole, thiabendazole
Prevention: worm your animals (pets and livestock regularly), don’t use pig feces for human food gardens (pig roundworms pass to humans), wash your hands regularly especially after playing or working with pigs and before you eat, don’t eat raw or pickled fish (esp. herring and squid)
Some Roundworm Species and their Associated Diseases:
- Roundworm (Nematodes) Introduction
- Roundworm-Ancylostoma (Hookworm)
- Roundworm-Anisakis (Raw fish)
- Roundworm-Ascarids Introduction
- Roundworm-Baylisascaris (Brain eating)
- Roundworm-Capillaria (Dogs)
- Roundworm-Dioctophyma renale (Kidney-Urine)
- Roundworm-Dirofilaria (Heartworm)
- Roundworm-Dracunculus (Lymph system)
- Roundworm-Enterobius (Human Pinworm)
- Roundworm-Schistosoma (Skin-Swimmer’s Itch)
- Roundworm-Strongyloides (Large animals)
- Roundworm-Thelazia (Eyes-from flies)
- Roundworm-Toxocara (Dogs and Cats)
- Roundworm-Trichinella (Pork)
- Roundworm-Trichuris (Whipworm)
Parasite FAQ’s Conclusion Helpful Links & References
Roundworm—Dirofilaria causes Heartworm which is a form of Filariasis. Filariasis, is defined as disease caused by the presence of filariae in the tissues of the body and is caused by nematodes (roundworms) that inhabit the lymphatics and subcutaneous tissues.
Eight main species of roundworms infect humans: Dipetalonema does not affect humans, but Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi cause lymphatic Filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), and Onchocerca volvulus causes onchocerciasis (river blindness). The other five species are Loa loa, Mansonella perstans, M. streptocerca, M. ozzardi, and Brugia timori. (The last species also causes lymphatic filariasis.) To diagnose one of these types of worms you can use blood tests, antigen testing, other lab tests like ELISA, or you can determine which species it is by identify the adults.
Symptoms include painful swellings under the skin, lymph duct inflammation, enlarged and painful testicles and fever. Heartworm symptoms include fatigue after exercise; cough and ascites (build up of fluid in the abdomen). These worms are passed by mosquitoes and the black fly Simulium.
Treatment of heartworm (if heartworm doesn’t kill the animal first) is with diethylcarbamazine or Ivermectin. Prevention is really important and it’s also really important to get your dog tested for heartworm BEFORE giving it the preventative because if the wormer or preventative kills the worms off too quickly, the animal may have an anaphylactic reaction and die. It’s a bad deal.
Question: Can I get roundworms and tapeworms from my pets? Good question and I get that question a lot. If you worm your pets regularly, you shouldn’t have this problem. Dog and cat worms are mostly different than most human worms. Most worms are species and host specific which means they can’t live in a human or animal that is not a part of their reproductive life cycle. For most people the benefits of having pets far outweigh the risks. The exception is zoonotic parasites which include those worms which include both animals and humans in their life cycles. Reference: http://www.pethealthcouncil.co.uk/people.shtml
There are only a few species of worms that are zoonotic (passed from your dogs and cats to you) but there are LOTS of worms and bacteria passed through contaminated water sources. (For information on how to test and filter your water, see our Water section.)
Question: Will store-bought wormer work the same as a wormer I’d get from my doctor or veterinarian? No. Many stores still carry Piperazine wormer which has been so overused that it is no longer an effective wormer. Piperazine is often marketed as a “monthly” wormer in the pet sections. And if the product contains a tapeworm medicine (like Clorpyriphos which is an organophosphate wormer), that may cause some serious side affects. Never use these store bought wormers on pregnant animals. They can strain to pass the worms so much that they can rupture their uterus and die. Always get tapeworm medicine from your doctor or veterinarian as we carry much safer brands than the grocery or feed stores do AND the professional guidance for their use. (See section on Common Wormers)
Well, that’s worms in a nutshell (or in this case, an intestine!) Appetizing, eh? What alarms me (and it should alarm you as well) is that clean, uncontaminated water is extremely important to us. You’ve just read almost a book on JUST those parasites that are passed to us through animals, fish, soil and water. This is just the tip of the iceberg here. I haven’t even talked about viruses or bacteria or chemicals that are passed through our water sources. I think the best we can do is keep educating and protecting ourselves as best as we can. So, get your water tested and get the appropriate filtration system!
Helpful Links and References:
- Guess What Came to Dinner?: Parasites and Your Health (Avery) by Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D.
- Parasites passed through drinking water: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vetext/INF-DI/Protex-Water-bZD.pdf
- Really Gross Pictures (but very real): http://www.curezone.com/image_gallery/parasites
- Cool Site! http://www.whatsthatbug.com/mites.html
- Great list of parasites: http://www.k-state.edu/parasitology/625tutorials
- Parasite sizes and descriptive tables: http://www.dpd.cdc.gov/dpdx/HTML/MorphologyTables.htm
- Zoonotic Diseases: http://www.cdc.gov/NCIDOD/DPD/animals.htm
Diatomaceous Earth Links: Our local organic people recommend
- Perma-Guard (www.perma-guard.com) or Biconet brand.