Ascariasis, also known as roundworm, is very common, and is found in about 25% percent of human beings. It is a parasite with a complex life cycle. It is most commonly spread by unwashed produce, or raw foods, that contain a trace amount of feces that may be undetected by the naked eye.
Most common in Asian, African, and to a lesser degree, South American countries. The Ascarisis lumbricoides parasite thrives in soils, where is can live for years until picked up by human beings or other animals and accidentally ingested. The eggs persist most commonly in warmer temperate, moist soils containing clay. They are common then, in tropical areas where people are expected to spend a higher amount of time out of doors.
For the ingested eggs to become a full blown infestation requires that they remain alive through a process call embryonation. This happens when a larvae from an ingested egg hatches in the small intestine. From this pre-larval stage they can penetrate the intestinal walls to the liver. From the liver and are carried to the lungs. Once in the lungs they can infect the bronchial cavities. A cough will result, which allows the now molted larvae to then be swallowed by the host. Once living within a human host, the parasite can mature into adults over a very long period of time.
Symptoms of the parasite include gastrointestinal distress, fever, vomiting, and coughing in the larval stage. As many symptoms are common to many illnesses, careful monitoring of symptoms is required, and will help with a diagnosis.
The time involved from ingestion to adult stage of the parasite is up to several months, which makes the trace origin of the eggs very hard to track down.
What is recommended is careful washing of all produce and boiling of water to kill off any parasites in areas where contamination is probable. Children most commonly spread the parasite by hand to mouth contact with soils, and all objects near soils. Hand washing can reduce the parasite, but it is so prevalent that hand washing alone will not prevent all contact. Children can be taught to not put things in their mouths, but this too, is unlikely to eradicate infection, entirely. Most effective is behavioral habits that encourage indoor defecation, washing of hands, and careful washing of all salad, meat, and non-cooked produce.
Worms that grow to their adult stage can be found in stools, and are occasionally vomited, up by the host. Any such sample should be preserved and taken to a health care provider by an adult who suspects the parasite. They can be identified by their length, about half as long as a pen, and almost as thick, in their largest adult stage.
Current treatments for Ascarisis are Mebendazole and Albendazole, herbal remedies also include dried papaya seeds. Some people report using garlic, and many over the counter remedies that can be found in health food stores. The best course of action is to consult is to research online and consult with a physician.