Ascariasis is an infection with a roundworm parasite.
This roundworm can grow to over 15 inches (40 centimeters) in length. Their eggs hatch in the stomach and the larvae travel to the liver and lungs. This causes a type of pneumonia. The larvae are coughed or travel to the throat where they are swallowed. They enter the stomach again and develop into adult worms. Each female worm lays 240,000 eggs per day. These eggs leave the body with bowel movements. The cycle begins again when contaminated food or water is eaten.
Ascariasis is caused by swallowing food or water that is contaminated by feces containing eggs.
Infestations are more common in preschool age or younger children because they are more likely to play in contaminated soil and are not so careful with fecal hygiene. Other factors that may increase the chance of ascariasis include:
Most people will have no symptoms. If present, they may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and your travel and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a gastroenterologist or a specialist in tropical diseases.
Your bodily fluids and waste may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken to look for evidence of the worm. This can be done with:
It is common to have more than one intestinal parasite. You may need to be tested and treated for several. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
To reduce your chance of ascariasis:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Public Health Agency of Canada
Ascariasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116444/Ascariasis. Updated June 2, 2016. Accessed June 28, 2016.
Ascariasis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/nematodes-roundworms/ascariasis. Updated October 2013. Accessed June 28, 2016.
Parasites—ascariasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/ascariasis. Updated January 10, 2013. Accessed June 28, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.