Doctors use the term Strongyloides stercoralis to refer to so-called dwarf nematodes. Dwarf nematodes are 3 mm long parasites that reside in the small intestine. Among other things, they are responsible for strongyloidiasis. As a rule, this disease occurs in tropical areas; in Europe, on the other hand, this disease only occurs in a warm environment. Above all, employees of a mine or tunnel construction are affected. Immunocompromised people who are suffering from HIV, for example, are also among the risk groups.
What is a nematode infection?
The dwarf roundworms make their way through the skin into the body. This is the so-called skin penetration. Above all, walking barefoot increases the risk of catching a so-called dwarf roundworm as a parasite. For lks definition and meaning, please visit howsmb.com.
The parasite enters the lungs via the bloodstream. It migrates into the cavity, gets directly into the throat via the respiratory tract and is swallowed from there. This ingestion ultimately gets the parasite where it wants to go – the small intestine. In the small intestine, the nematode develops into a larva and mutates into a sexually mature female.
Of course, the females lay their eggs in the small intestine, where the larvae hatch and are excreted through the intestine – in the stool. The infestation of dwarf nematodes brings with it an infection, since the larvae cause inflammation in the relevant part of the intestine.
There are usually two reasons why a dwarf roundworm infection occurs. Primarily when there is an endoautoinfection. The larvae already become infectious in the intestine and inflame the intestinal section. The larvae then pass directly from the intestinal wall into the bloodstream.
The larvae often make their way through the ileum, large intestine and appendix. An exautoinfection, on the other hand, involves infectious larvae that are already present in the stool. The larvae re-enter the human body through the skin in the anal region. It is therefore possible that these will find their way into the bloodstream again.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
An infestation with dwarf nematodes (Strongyloides stercoralis) is particularly dangerous for people with a weakened immune system . Otherwise, the infection can also be asymptomatic. However, the disease often becomes chronic because the newly hatched larvae can constantly re-enter the body from the inside via the intestinal mucosa or from the outside via the skin.
In the case of a chronic infection, severe itching of the skin occurs very often, since the worms move in the skin and cause stubborn skin inflammation with the bacteria they have carried with them. In some cases, the lungs can also be affected. Pneumonia and asthmatic symptoms are sometimes observed.
Digestive problems with nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and a constant feeling of fullness can also occur three to four weeks after the initial infection. In some sufferers, however, these symptoms only appear years later. There are also infected people without any symptoms. Then the proliferation of eosinophils, a special form of white blood cells, is the only indication of an infestation with dwarf nematodes.
When the worms multiply rapidly, the level of contamination can become so severe that the larvae introduce large numbers of bacteria into the bloodstream. This is life-threatening sepsis. Fatal superinfections with bacteria are more common, especially in immunocompromised people. Without intensive treatment, death then occurs from multi- organ failure.
Diagnosis & History
The doctor makes the diagnosis with the help of a microscope. It is only possible to determine whether it is actually dwarf threadworms three weeks after infection. The doctor treating you likes to talk about prepatency during this time.
It thus describes the period of time between the onset of infection and the propagation products, which take place in the form of eggs and larvae. The two possible types of autoinfection are sometimes a reason why the patient can suffer from a very strong contamination. As a rule, this infection is a relatively stubborn and unpleasant disease. Ultimately, the main danger is that the larvae and nematodes introduce bacteria into the bloodstream.
Therefore, sepsis – general infection – is possible. Already one week after the occurrence of the infection, the patient complains of respiratory problems. In the case of a very severe infestation, the patient can even report asthma-like conditions. Even pneumonia – inflammation of the lungs – can be caused by the parasites. Often, however, eosinophilia is the only symptom and sign that the patient might be suffering from such an infestation. This is mainly due to an imbalance of granulocytes in the blood.
Here the doctor speaks of the eosinophils. Ultimately, these are defense cells that belong to the group of leukocytes, the white blood cells. Leukocytes increase when there are infections in the body. Thus, they declare war on the dwarf roundworms. After about a month, it is possible that further problems in the digestive tract will appear.
Many patients complain of a feeling of fullness. Nausea and vomiting, bloody stools and severe diarrhea are often further signs of an infection by nematodes. However, the complaints and symptoms do not have to appear after three or four weeks. It is possible for patients to be symptom-free for months or years despite being infested with dwarf roundworms.
Dwarf nematode infection causes very uncomfortable discomfort and can also lead to various compilations if left untreated. Those affected usually suffer from a very strong itching that occurs in the anus. This significantly reduces the quality of life of those affected and makes everyday life more difficult. The affected person may also become irritable.
Furthermore, the patients suffer from a strong feeling of fullness and also from frequent vomiting or bloody stools. Likewise, the nematode infection leads to severe diarrhea, so that those affected suffer from dehydration and various deficiency symptoms if the diarrhea persists for a long period of time and the nematode infection is not treated. Furthermore, it comes to breathing difficulties or even to asthma.
If no treatment is initiated, blood poisoning can also occur, which can be fatal for the person concerned. Treatment of nematode infection is carried out without complications with the help of drugs. This usually results in a positive course of the disease within a short period of time. The life expectancy of the affected person is not reduced if the disease is treated early.
When should you go to the doctor?
A doctor should be consulted if there is a decrease in physical performance or fatigue. A general feeling of being ill or feeling unwell indicates the presence of a health disorder. If symptoms persist or increase in intensity, a visit to a doctor is recommended. Abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract, digestive problems or disorders such as nausea, vomiting and dizziness must be examined and treated. If breathing is impaired, there is cause for concern. Shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety, sleep disorders and a tendency to tire quickly are signs of an existing illness. If there is an increased body temperature, blood in the stool, a feeling of fullness or itching, it is advisable to clarify the cause.
In order to avoid complications or secondary diseases, a doctor’s visit is already necessary at the first health irregularities. If the disease is severe, pus may form. If this gets into the bloodstream, this is a life-threatening situation. If left untreated, organ failure and thus premature death can occur. In some patients, the health problems develop over a period of several years. As soon as the affected person becomes aware of the changes in his/her state of health, a doctor should be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
The doctor treats the infection with mebendazole. This preparation is an active ingredient that ultimately helps against all types of worms. For this reason, the active ingredient also bears the name “broad spectrum anthelmintic “.
The active ingredient primarily kills the worms. A treatment with mebendazole lasts three days. After the treatment, the body is free of parasites, inflammation and infections. Further treatment is not necessary for an infestation of dwarf roundworms. The rest of the therapy depends on combating the symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).
There is no prevention against dwarf roundworms. In the end, it helps to strengthen the immune system and to consult the doctor at the first symptoms.
Even if the patients should not have noticed anything about this infection, it has weakened the entire body and thus its immune system. The worms have triggered an infection that causes stress for the entire organism. Therefore, after a dwarf nematode infection, it is important to first treat the residual symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or the remaining foci of infection in order to strengthen the immune system again.
A well-functioning immune system can also prevent new infections. A healthy diet is particularly important for a good immune system. Patients should attach importance to fresh food, if possible from organic farming, and prepare it in a way that preserves nutrients. One to two liters of water or herbal tea daily with and between meals are a must.
Anything that could put a strain on the body should be avoided. These include stimulants such as nicotine and alcohol, as well as food that is too fatty or too heavy, or an irregular sleep/wake cycle. Doctors practicing naturopathic medicine can test any deficiencies in the patient and compensate with appropriate orthomolecular substances. The daily intake of small amounts of healing earth or turmeric can detoxify the body at the same time.
Intestinal care is very important in the follow-up treatment of a worm infection. Taking probiotics, i.e. living microorganisms, is therefore recommended. Here, too, there are dietary supplements or medicines that are freely available in pharmacies and ensure a healthy intestinal climate.
You can do that yourself
The patient can do a number of things themselves to support the treatment of a nematode infection. Consistent hygiene is particularly important. It is used to prevent re-infection. This also prevents other people from becoming infected. One of the most important hygiene measures is washing your hands regularly with soap. This is especially true after going to the toilet. The anus should also be cleaned thoroughly with clean water after each bowel movement. The corresponding washcloths may only be used once.
Likewise, the fingernails should not be ignored. It is recommended to cut them short and clean them with a brush at regular intervals. Another important self-help measure is the cleaning of bed linen, washcloths and towels. They should be changed daily and washed in the washing machine at temperatures of at least 60 degrees. The washing stuff may not be used by the relatives due to the risk of infection. To prevent the eggs of the nematode worms from getting into the bed, it is advisable to wear well-fitting underwear at night as well. In addition, the individual living rooms are to be subjected to thorough cleaning, which applies primarily to the bedroom.
It is important to treat all members of the family at the same time to prevent dwarf nematode infection from reoccurring.