Infectious Diseases

Hookworm Life Cycle of a Hookworm Hookworm Disease

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The term hookworm applies to any of a group of small threadlike worms that live as parasites in man and many other mammals. There are two common varieties of hookworms the American hookworm and the European hookworm. The American variety is found in the southeastern United States as well as in areas of Central and South America. The European variety is commonly found in cooler regions of the Eastern Hemisphere.

There are two stages in the life cycle of a hookworm. Adult worms live in the intestines of host mammals and the female can lay as many as 30,000 eggs in one day. The eggs pass out of the body through the feces, but if they do hatch before that, it will only take a day or two before they develop into larvae. The eggs that pass out of the body will live in the soil from which they can be picked up by humans and animals.

Usually the larvae of the hookworm enter the host through the feet. They penetrate the skin between the toes of bare feet in humans and the paws of animals from where they travel through the blood or lymph vessels to the lungs. From here, they travel to the throat and are swallowed giving them access to the intestine of a new host where they lay eggs.

When they are present in the intestine, the hookworm clings to the walls of this organ by means of the small toothlike structures around the mouth. It bites into the intestine and feeds on the blood of the host. The result is a condition known as hookworm disease. It is quite possible that there will be no symptoms whatsoever, if there are only a few worms present.

When there are a large number of hookworms in the intestine, this can result in the loss of large amounts of blood. As a result, the host will suffer from anemia and excessive fatique. Other symptoms of this condition include, itchy skin, dryness of the hair, dizziness and headache. Children who contract this disease may appear younger than they really are and suffer from physical and mental impairment.

In areas where these worms are in abundance, hookworm disease is also prevalent. These areas are also characterized by poor sanitation and it is customary for the people to walk around barefoot. When human waste is used as fertilizer, the presence of hookworms is cause for concern.

Hookworm disease is treatable by drugs that kill the worms in the system. Then they are expelled from the body and pose no further threat. You can avoid contracting this disease by making sure that you practice good sanitation and wear footwear when you are outside.

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