Dec 29, 2008

Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart. If you're pregnant, post-partum, intestinal-fortitude-challenged, or just plain ol' squeamish, you may want to bypass this post and head straight for the baboons and birds below.

Now that you've been warned, let's hop aboard the Parasite Express and take a tour of the human body, as abused by the roundworm known as Ascaris lumbricoides.

Here are some tame photos of this parasite, brought to us by Amy. I don't suggest doing an image search for this creature. They aren't pretty.

Photo source:

They don't look so menacing when placed beside a ruler. But when placed inside your system, you get a whole different story. If I may quote Amy: after contracting them (by coming in contact with infected feces),

The eggs hatch in your intestine, penetrate the intestinal wall and travel in the blood stream to your liver. From the liver, they travel to the lungs, where you cough up the tiny larvae and re-swallow them. This is how they reach your intestines again, where they attach and mature to the adult stage. Adults grow up to 35 cm long and can shed up to 250,000 eggs a day, which are passed in the feces.

Photo source:

...nobody likes me, every body hates me, guess I'll go eat worms...

Oh, but that's not all. Amy has more to share:

One person may be host to hundreds of these worms, and when the worms are threatened by bodily defenses like fever, or by medications, they can begin to migrate. Migration can cause blockage of the intestines, where they bunch up, or they can try to exit the body from the anus or mouth/nose.

And don't think you North American readers are safe from this parasite, which seems like it should only dwell in the deepest regions of the tropics. No, they are prevalent in the Appalachian mountain region.

Now, go wash your hands.

On a lighter note, Amy has something far nicer to share. She's a terrific painter. Check out her portfolio.

Thanks Amy. How can one woman be such a harbinger of ick and beauty?


Anonymous said...

The best part is that these worms have an extreme aversion to gaseous general anesthesia, so infected individuals can have worms coming out of their mouth and nostrils in the middle of an operation.

Raging Wombat said...

Wow. I never thought anesthesiologists faced such perils.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Ack! Omg. -_-

So how do you get rid of them once infected? How long does it take? And, for all you animal lovers, what purpose *do* they serve in nature (other than reproduce and sustain their own lives)?

I wonder about parasites sometimes...

Anonymous said...

Treatment of worm infection is primarily with Benzimidazole drugs. Biliary obstruction is usually treated with ERCP (a more precise endoscopy through the mouth). Major obstructions can call for surgery such as laparotomy.

Raging Wombat said...

You readers are all smarter than me. It isn't fair.

Anonymous said...

True. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.

But at least you know to never get involved in a land war in Asia or go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

Alison said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!

Ha ha ha--*clunk*

Anonymous said...

no one's said where they come from...are they so versitile you can inhale the eggs while hiking, or do you have to be a bit more careless?

Anonymous said...

Ingestion of dirt, food or drink contaminated with worm eggs. More common in areas of the world with poor hygiene practices, inadequate sanitation, and areas that use human sewage for fertilizer.

Is now found in the US more and more due to unchecked illegal immigration and the tendency of illegals to take jobs as food handlers.

Anonymous said...

Not to start an immigration debate, but that is a pretty broad generalization to state. There are many places around the US where sanitation is poor and anybody could be contaminated. Teenagers are also likely to work in food service and, if I were to make a broad generalization, teens aren't the most cleanliness of creatures either.

It's like saying people shouldn't own lizards because they carry salmonella. They aren't born with it and just because they show no symptoms doesn't mean they should not be treated.

Anonymous said...

oh dear Lord, i googled them. i did it. you told me not to, but i had no idea....WOW.

i'm a student nurse, and i've seen some things, but that almost made me lose it. blehk.

Raging Wombat said...

Buttercup: how did you know which one of the feces samples was infected with the roundworm?
Wesley (aka Dread Pirate Roberts): They both were.

Anonymous said...

Isn't nature just bloody wonderful?


Anonymous said...


This is primarily a third-world / tropical illness as is neurocysticercosis caused by Taenia solium. These, along with leprosy, chagas, Dengue fever, etc. are showing up more and more within the United States due to unchecked illegal immigration. (Illegal immigrants obviously aren't given health screening when they enter the country). Many illegals then get jobs in the food services sector (as the profusion of bicycles parked at the back of restaurants attests to.) Teenagers may not be the cleanest creatures, but most don't carry 3rd world tropical diseases and therefore aren't likely vectors for these illnesses.

All the politically correct tripe in the world won't change this fact. Dr. William Campbell Douglas lays it out rather plainly here: