ASCARIASIS- ROUNDWORMS HATE HUMANS

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HUMAN WORM INFECTION

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It is almost a rule for every travel agency  to inform travelers about the epidemic side of the chosen destination. The place could be simply a dream but in one second, with known or unknown infection, it could turn our world into the worst nightmare. That is always that tiny border between the developed and developing countries, the sign that you cross the line and that you maybe won’t be 100% safe. The safety doesn’t mean only being safe from terror attack and domestic criminal but also being safe from being exposed to the local infections or  possible undiscovered biological agents or environmental influences we can’t handle.

The dangerous microbes are not the only concern for us. There are so many challenging parasites that are able to cause the horror for people too. They are not so elegant and high-class like viruses or some bacterias, their attack is more obvious and they often come from the dirt and the places with absence of modern sanitation.

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Could you imagine the human body full of worms? Even worse, the whole web of worms that are forming eggs and waiting for larvae to become active. Yes, we are talking about the Ascariasis disease, indicated by  Ascaris lumbricoides (A. lumbricoides), which is a species of roundworm. Both, adult human worms and larvae  live in small intestine and can produce the  intestinal disease. According to CDC, the infective eggs are those that we need to be aware of:“Ascaris lives in the intestine and Ascaris eggs are passed in the feces of infected persons. If the infected person defecates outside (near bushes, in a garden, or field), or if the feces of an infected person are used as fertilizer, then eggs are deposited on the soil. They can then mature into a form that is infective. Ascariasis is caused by ingesting infective eggs. This can happen when hands or fingers that have contaminated dirt on them are put in the mouth or by consuming vegetables or fruits that have not been carefully cooked, washed or peeled.Infection occurs worldwide in warm and humid climates, where sanitation and hygiene are poor, including in temperate zones during warmer months.”

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The mentioned disease is relatively known to the global healthcare because of the fact that 10% of the developing world is fighting with the roundworms that hurt humans. When someone is in the region where the soul could be possibly contaminated with the  Ascaris eggs, then it is definitely recommended to be careful with the procedures of biological safety and clean surroundings of the food and water. The children in those areas are first among infected because they are playing around and do not take care about the necessary hand washing. That is exactly how eggs come to the house or even the food and water reservoirs.  One doctor managed to describe the whole travel process of the Ascaris into the targeted  human body:“After ingestion, the A. lumbricoides roundworm reproduces inside your intestine.Swallowed eggs first hatch in the intestine.The larvae then move through your bloodstream to your lungs.After maturing, the roundworms leave your lungs and travel to your throat.You’ll either cough up or swallow the roundworms in your throat. The worms that are swallowed will travel back to your intestine.Once they’re back in your intestine, the worms will mate and lay more eggs.The cycle continues. Some eggs are excreted through your feces. Other eggs hatch and return to the lungs.”

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The picture is not encouraging  especially because there are no symptoms that occur so the diagnosis could be sorted out. Sometimes, it could be some kind of abdominal discomfort or coughing but the clinical definition failed to be formed and that is why many people do not have a clue that they are infected and that they are available to spread the infection further.  However, the infected person can develop nausea, vomiting, irregular stools and also the weight loss. At one critical moment, the worms will be visible in the stools and then the infection is really severe.

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There is a treatment of this disease, Anthelminthic medications, particularly albendazole and mebendazole, that  are the  drugs that help the body to eliminate the parasitic worms. It takes for 1-3 days for a human body to be cleaned but it also depends on the stage of inner infection. The medical experts believe that prevention, as always, is better solution than any of the recommended chemical ideas. In developing countries, there are potentially risk groups, like preschool and school-age children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women and men with the professional  risk to be exposed to the infection. Many clinics organize so called preventive treatment and this is the procedure that is accepted as the right one by the WHO too.There are also the set of things we must to do if we do not want to deal with the Ascariasis disease. First, we must keep water clean which means to boil or filter the water in the areas with the high risk. Second, we must inspect the food facilities and control the food preparation process. The food we consume must be absolutely approved by the local  sanitary authority. It is also very important to chose the clean rooms for sleeping and bathing because of the worm’s capacity to travel without limitations.

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This disease is not hazardous as many others but it could be among threats if it is not properly diagnosed and responded. Usually, after the medications is given, the patient is in recovery but it depends on the level of infestations.The rare situations are those when the disease is not defined in the right time so the internal worms activities are making the tunnels within the human body. That could indicate the gastrointestinal complications and intestinal blockage. In that case, the surgery is the only effective treatment.

The system we live in is not only the political or economical, it is also the ecological and we share it with many visible and invisible residents. There is a place for everyone but without mutual respect for the borders, it won’t be settled a  peace between humans and nature. It will be a war, an ultimate war for final survival.

 

 

16 thoughts on “ASCARIASIS- ROUNDWORMS HATE HUMANS”

  1. Thank you, Sarah, for this very informative article !

    Before traveling, one should garner as much information about the traveled destination in order to be better prepared ! As usual, sanitary common sense is always advised in order to avoid such infections.

    Our planet is full of so many discovered species and so many undiscovered ones !
    It devolves upon us, humans, to be both careful around and respectful of other species, their existence, and their habitat !

    We, as humans, have to come to grips with the fact that we’re not alone on this planet, and that we share it with so many other species ! If we respect their boundaries, they will respect ours, and the world will be a better a more peaceful place !

    Your writing style, Sarah, is as intriguing and enticing as always !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah’s informative and pertinent article brought to mind the topical and controversial issue of ‘ecological sanitation’: this concerns the relationship between sanitation and agribusiness. Ecological sanitation systems are designed to recycle excreta and effluence for reuse in crop production, in a safe and efficacious manner (i.e. converting human waste into nutrients that can enrich top soils).

    The most advanced technology and application of ecological sanitation exists in Sweden. For example, Swedish researchers and engineers have made it possible to sanitize black water (i.e. urine and human excreta) from black water systems and for further use as a recognized fertilizer. The Federation of Swedish Farmers has been active in this development, also.

    The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) ran a worldwide ecological sanitation research programme called ‘Ecosanres’, from 2001 to 2011. One of the dry pilot projects (i.e. using dry toilets) of this programme was a large scale implementation scheme in multi-story buildings together with other technologies to allow resource recovery from excreta. This project was called the Erdos Eco-Town Project in a town called Erdos in The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. It was designed to save water and provide sanitation services in this drought-stricken and rapidly urbanizing area of northern China. However, for a variety of technical, social and institutional reasons, the units were removed after only a few years, and the project failed to deliver in the area of nutrient recovery. This project is well documented and has raised more awareness of the challenges and disadvantages of ecological sanitation.

    Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL – North American non-profit developmental aid organization, est. 2006) in Haiti built what they call ‘ecosan toilets’ as part of the emergency relief effort following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. More than 20,000 Haitians are currently using SOIL ecological sanitation toilets and SOIL has produced over 400,000 liters of compost as a result. The compost is used for agricultural and reforestation projects. SOIL’s composting process is effective in deactivating Ascariasis eggs (an indicator for helminth eggs in general) in the excreta collected from the dry toilets, within 16 weeks. The composting and monitoring methods used by SOIL in Haiti may serve as an example for other international settings.

    Nevertheless, there is a dark side to First World foreign aid: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) is a treatise by the Canadian writer and social activist Naomi Klein. In the treatise she argues that neo-Liberal free market policies (as advocated by the economist Milton Friedman) have risen to prominence in some Developed Countries because of a deliberate strategy of ‘shock therapy’. This centers on the exploitation of national crises to push through controversial policies while citizens are too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance. The work is complemented by her treatise entitled This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014); which argues that the climate crisis cannot be addressed in the current era of neo-Liberal market fundamentalism, which encourages profligate consumption and has resulted in mega-mergers and trade agreements hostile to the health of the environment (which is directly associated with ecological sanitation). Documents released by Edward Snowden in December of 2013 demonstrate that The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was among the surveillance targets of British and North American intelligence agencies.

    Prevention of Ascaris lumbricoides is by improved sanitation, which includes improving access to toilets and proper disposal of feces. Hand washing with soap appears protective. About 0.8 to 1.2 billion people globally have ascariasis; with the most heavily affected populations being in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia. This makes ascariasis the most common form of soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Eliminating the use of untreated human faeces as fertilizer is essential in prevention efforts.

    In the year 2016, The Sustainable Development Goals replaced The Millennium Development Goals. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation of The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are intrinsic to ecological sanitation schemes. According to the JMP, if current trends continue (e.g. in 2015, 2.4 billion people lacked access to improved sanitation facilities), about 15% of the affected populations will continue to practice open defecation; defined as defecation in fields, forests, bushes, bodies of water or other open spaces. This represents 1.1 billion people. Though the proportion of people practicing open defecation is decreasing, the absolute number has remained at over 1 billion for several years, due to population growth and the absence of effective ecological sanitation programmes.

    Poor sanitation can increase transmission of bacteria and viruses through water, food, utensils, hands and flies. An estimated 1 billion people are infected with Ascaris lumbricoides worldwide. Ascaris lumbricoides eggs are extremely resistant to strong chemicals, desiccation and low temperatures. The eggs can remain viable in the soil for several months or even years. Eggs of Ascaris lumbricoides have been identified in archeological coprolites in The Americas, Europe, Africa, The Middle East and New Zealand; the oldest ones being more than 24,000 years old.

    Preventing any fecal-borne disease requires educated hygienic habits/culture and effective fecal treatment systems. This is particularly important with Ascaris lumbricoides, because its eggs are one of the most difficult pathogens to kill (second only to prions), and the eggs commonly survive 1–3 years. Ascaris lumbricoides lives in the intestine where it lays eggs. Infection occurs when the eggs, too small to be seen by the unaided eye, are eaten. The eggs may find their way into vegetables when improperly processed human feces of infected people are used as fertilizer for food crops. Infection may occur when food is handled without removing or killing the eggs on the hands, clothes, hair, raw vegetables/fruit or cooked food that is (re)infected by handlers, containers, etc.

    As Sarah’s excellent article concludes, microorganisms are the factual battleground for humans attempting to protect their organic selves on planet Earth, and the more humans infringe upon Nature the more likely that their survival will not be possible…

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  3. Thank you Sarah for such an excellent and informative article. I just never thought that they could be that dangerous! I always thought that they are there by coincidence and only enjoying our food. Thanks again.

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