Ascaris round worms are parasites commonly hosted in the intestines of various terrestrial animals, chiefly herbivores. They are typically large worms characterized by a mouth surrounded by three lips. The species Ascaris lumbricoides is probably the most familiar parasite in humans. An almost identical worm, often called A. suum, occurs in pigs.
The intestinal roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides infection in humans follows the ingestion of Ascaris eggs that have contaminated foods or soil. In the small intestine the larvae are liberated and migrate through the intestinal wall, reaching the lungs, where they may produce a host sensitization that results in lung inflammation and fluid retention. About 10 days later, the larvae pass from the respiratory passages into the digestive tract and mature into egg-producing worms, which grow to some 15 to 40 cm (6 to 16 inches) in length, in the small intestine. Serious, even fatal, complications of ascariasis result from the infiltration of the larvae into sensitive tissues, such as the brain, and from the migration of the adult worms into various body structures where they produce abcesses and toxic manifestations.
Ascariasis round worms exists worldwide and is believed to affect some 660 million persons.
Life Cycle Diagram (Courtesy of the DPD)
Adult round worms live in the lumen of the small intestine. A female may produce up to 240,000 eggs per day, which are passed with the feces. Fertile eggs embryonate and become infective after 18 days to several weeks, depending on the environmental conditions (optimum: moist, warm, shaded soil). After infective eggs are swallowed, the larvae hatch, invade the intestinal mucosa, and are carried via the portal, then systemic circulation to the lungs. The larvae mature further in the lungs (10 to 14 days), penetrate the alveolar walls, ascend the bronchial tree to the throat, and are swallowed. Upon reaching the small intestine, they develop into adult worms. Between 2 and 3 months are required from ingestion of the infective eggs to oviposition by the adult female. Adult worms can live 1 to 2 years
The anterior end of Ascaris
lumbricoides. Notice the
three prominent "lips".
Female and male Ascaris lumbricoides;
the female measures approximately
16 inches (40 cm) in length.
One roundworm from a large mass of
Ascaris lumbricoides that was passed
from a person's intestinal tract.
The Ascaris lumbricoides can
measure up to 16 inches long.
A common parasite in humans.
Dr. Ross Andersen, N.D.
References and additional information:
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Ohio State University, Biological Sciences
- Skye Weintraub, ND "The Parasite Menace""; Woodland Publishing 2000
- Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS "Guess What Came To Dinner?"; Avery 2001
- Valerie Saxion "Everybody Has Parasites"; Bronze Bow Publishing 2003
- Skye Weintraub "The Parasite Menace"; March 1998
- Roger M. Knutson "Fearsome Fauna: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Live in You"
- Carl Zimmer "Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures"
- Paavo Airola, ND, PhD "How To Get Well"; Health Plus Publishers
- Nicholas Culpepper "Culpepper's Complete Herbal"; Omega 1985
- Penny C. Royal "Herbally Yours"; Sound Nutrition 1982
- James F. Balch, MD "Prescription For Nutritional Healing"; Sound Nutrition 1997
- Alma R. Hutchens "Indian Herbology of North America"; Merco 1973
- Discover Magazine; August 2000 Edition