Hookworms are parasitic worms. They dwell in small intestine of humans. Millions of people all over the world are infected with hookworm, particularly people living in tropics and subtropics as the climatic condition is favorable for its survival in the soil. It is one of the most common parasitic infections in the intestine.
Hookworm is named so as its shape is similar to a hook. Adult female hookworm releases thousands of eggs in a day which are passed through human feces. The source of infection is fecal contamination of soil. The hatched larva penetrates the skin, usually the feet and reaches in the intestine through blood stream.The larva grows into adult worm and lives for several years.
The worm attaches itself to the walls of small intestine and sucks blood and nutrition for its survival. Hookworm infection causes anemia. Presence of eggs in stool helps in diagnosis. Treatment consists of antihelminthic drugs. Natural remedies are also useful as an adjunct therapy for treating hookworm infection.
How Do You Get Hookworm Infection?
Hookworm is a parasite. It is half inch long and lives in human intestine. Ankylostoma duodenale and Nectar americanus are two types of hookworm most commonly infecting humans. Poor sanitation is the major cause for the spread of hookworm infection.The eggs released by female hookworm are passed out in stool. Poor sanitation facility can contaminate the soil.
Hookworm infection usually occurs when people walk barefoot in soil contaminated with feces. The larvae of hookworm penetrate the skin and travels through the blood stream to the lungs. From here they travel to the intestine and grow into adults worms.
The larvae needs warm and moist climate to survive in the soil. Therefore hookworm infection is more common in tropics and subtropical regions. Sometimes the larvae can be transmitted through oral route by ingesting contaminated food and raw vegetables and fruits.
Symptoms Of Hookworm Infestation In Humans
Hookworm infection can cause several health problems in humans. They attach to the inner walls of small intestine and feed on blood and nutrition from human host. Adult worm can give rise to primary infection as well as symptoms of longstanding duration.
- Patient suffering from hookworm infection complains of frequent abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, black colored stool due to small amount of bleeding from the gut, and most importantly iron deficiency anemia. Itching in legs occurs when the larvae penetrates and migrates through the skin.
- As patient becomes anemic, he experiences breathlessness on slight exertion. Some patient may suffer from pain in chest and in calf muscles.
- In severe cases mental apathy and depression are common. Adult females may suffer from menstrual problems due to anemia.
- Patient often experiences cough when the larvae passes from lungs to the stomach.
Treatment Options For Hookworm Infection
Hookworm infection is not life threatening, but it is debilitating condition. Most patients infected with hookworm are anemic. In severe cases there may be growth retardation and mental problems. Due to anemia patient may find it difficult to do his regular activities.
Hookworm infection is diagnosed with stool microscopy. Once the eggs are detected in laboratory tests, your doctor will start antihelminthic medicine. The main aim of treatment is to kill the parasite and flush them out from the intestine. The two drugs albendazole and mebendazole are very effective. Patient is also treated with iron supplements if anemia is present.
Few natural herbs are also beneficial in treating hookworm infection. Wormwood, clove, black walnut, unripe papaya, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate tree bark and coconut are effective as they have strong anti parasitic properties.