Helminth infections

Revision as of 20:00, 7 September 2014 by Rossdonaldson1 (talk | contribs) (Worm Types)


  • Approximately 2 billion people infected worldwide
  • Many are WHO-designated Neglected Tropical Diseases[1]
  • At-risk populations include impoverished, children, immigrants, tourists, HIV/AIDS patients, refugees [2]
  • Most common in subtropical and tropical areas, moist climates, poor sanitation and hygiene [3]


  • No direct person-to-person transmission
  • Fecal-oral transmission (ingestion of eggs in contaminated soil / vegetables / water)[3]
    • Ascaris and whipworm from human feces
    • Toxocara from dog / cat feces
    • Echinococcus from sheep / cattle feces
    • Taenia eggs from human feces
  • Cutaneous transmission
    • Hookworm eggs hatch in the soil, mature larvae penetrate skin
    • Lymphatic filariasis transmitted via bite from infected mosquito (Anopheles, Aedes, and Culex)
    • Onchocerciasis transmitted via bite from blackflies (Simulium species)
  • Food or waterborne transmission
    • Taenia also transmitted by ingestion of larval cysts in undercooked pork or beef
    • Diphyllobothrium tapeworm transmitted by contaminated freshwater fish
    • Dracunculiasis transmitted by ingestion of infected Cyclops water fleas in contaminated water (adult worm erodes through skin of leg, releases larvae in water when host wades in pond / open well, infecting the water fleas)


Helminth infections

Cestodes (Tapeworms)

Trematodes (Flukes)

Nematodes (Roundworms)

Clinical Features


  • Parasitic infections can be in the differential diagnosis for nearly every sign/symptom (GI, dermatologic, neurologic, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, hematologic)
  • Obtain a travel history in every patient
    • countries of travel
    • duration of stay
    • activities while traveling (adventure travel, tourism, working, swimming)
    • living arrangements – city / village / hotel / tent
    • drinking water source
    • symptom chronology



  • Stool studies (ova and parasites)
  • CBC to identify peripheral eosinophilia or anemia (not sensitive or specific)
  • Peripheral blood smear to identify microfilariae (e.g. lymphatic filariasis)

Disease/Symptom Specific

  • Pulmonary symptoms: CXR and sputum smear (e.g. Löffler’s syndrome)
  • CNS symptoms
    • Neuroimaging (CT with contrast or MR brain) may reveal ring-enhancing lesions, calcifications, or focal enhancing lesions in neurocysticercosis[4][5]
    • CSF serologies/ELISA for echinococcus, cysticercosis
  • Ultrasound or CT can localize cyst of echinococcus
  • ELISA or biopsy of affected tissue to diagnosis toxocariasis, cysticercosis
  • Identification of adult worm or microscopic larvae in cutaneous ulcer fluid can confirm dracunculiasis

Clinical Management

See individual worm type

See Also

External Links


  1. The 17 Neglected Tropical Diseases." World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/diseases/en/. Web. 11 Aug. 2014.
  2. "Parasites." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/. Web. 11 Aug. 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Chapter 133 - Parasitic Infections." Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. Ed. John A. Marx, Robert S. Hockberger, and Ron M. Walls. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier, 2014. 1768-784.
  4. Del Brutto OH, Rajshekhar V, White A, et al. “Proposed diagnostic criteria for neurocysticercosis.” Neurology, 2001; 57:177-183.
  5. Del Brutto OH. “Diagnostic criteria for neurocysticercosis, revisited.” Pathogens and Global Health, 2012; 106(5):299-304.