Helminths are worms with many cells. They are tapeworms, pin-worms, hook worms and round worms, which are among the most common helminths. A person becomes infected whenever they come in contact with helminth worms, which are parasites.
According to World Health Organization, most helminth infections are contracted through ingestion of contaminated soil. Helminth infections are also contracted because of poor sanitation and contact with contaminated feces. Helminth is not transmitted through contact with household pets or other animals.
Most people do not have symptoms unless the infection is severe. The symptoms of helminth infection vary among individuals. Abdominal pain ranging from mild to severe, anorexia, nausea, diarrhea, rectal prolapsed, bowel obstruction, death and allergies are among the symptoms. Hives and eosinophilia may develop as well as worms can eject from the rectum, portal hypertension, iron deficiency and learning disability in children. Anemia can result in persons who are infected with hook worms because this parasitic worm causes chronic intestinal blood loss.
The treatment options for helminth are albendazole and anthelminintics. Persons who have been treated repeatedly with these drugs often develop resistance to the drugs. Vermox (Mebendazole) is also used to treat some worms and can treat those infected with more than one species of worms.
There are preventative methods that are helpful in reducing the amount of infections in susceptible people. Children, the elderly and people with compromised immunity are susceptible to helminth infections. Other susceptible groups are people who work with the soil, miners and people who who live in impoverished regions. Pregnant and breast feeding mothers are among the high risk populations.
Children can be treated to remove any worms that might be harboring in the intestines. Treatment at the time a child reaches school age is a good way to prevent the spread of helminth among the school population. Children one year and younger should not be treated for this infection. As a precaution pregnant and breast feeding mothers can also be treated to prevent contamination of new born. A pregnant woman should not be treated for helminth infection within her first trimester.
Additionally whenever a member of a household becomes infected, the entire family should be treated to help stop re- infection. Keeping clothing, bedding and nails clean is useful in preventing and spreading infections.
There might be some benefits to contracting helminths as research indicates that regions that have a high rate of helminth infections also have a low rate of autoimmune diseases like asthma.
University of Maryland Medical Center
World Health Organization