A whipworm infection or trichuriasis is an infection affecting the large intestines caused by Trichuris trichiura. The parasite is commonly called as whipworm since it appears similar to a whip.
This infection can develop after ingesting dirt or water soiled with feces that contain whipworm parasites. Any individual who came in contact with contaminated feces can also acquire the whipworm infection. It is important to note that the infection typically affects children and also common among those who live in areas with humid, hot climates and areas with poor hygiene and sanitation.
What are the indications?
A whipworm infection can trigger various symptoms ranging from minor or severe and can include the following:
- Blood-streaked diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Painful or frequent defecation
- Abrupt or unexpected weight loss
- Fecal incontinence
Possible cause of a whipworm infection
A whipworm infection is triggered by the Trichuris trichiura parasite. Those who acquire the infection have been exposed to water or dirt contaminated by feces that contain the whipworm parasites or their eggs.
The whipworm eggs are present in the soil once contaminated feces are utilized as fertilizers or once an infected individual or animal defecates outside. An individual might unknowingly consume the parasites or their eggs if exposed to dirt and places their hands or fingers in or close to the mouth as well as eating vegetables or fruits that were not properly cleansed, cooked or peeled.
The commonly used and effective treatment for a whipworm infection is an anti-parasitic medication such as mebendazole and albendazole. This medication works by eliminating any whipworms and eggs in the body. The medication must be taken for 1-3 days and the potential effects are minor.
When the symptoms subside, the doctor might want to carry out another stool test to ensure that the infection is completely eliminated.
What is the outlook?
Many individuals who undergo treatment for whipworm infection can make complete recovery. If the condition is left untreated, the infection can become severe and lead to complications such as the following:
- Infections in the appendix and colon
- Delayed growth or cognitive development
- Rectal prolapse
The risk for acquiring a whipworm infection can be lessened with the following:
- Wash hands thoroughly especially before preparing food
- Cleanse, skin or cook foods methodically before they are eaten
- Avoid contact with soil that has been contaminated with fecal matter
- Boil or purify drinking water that might be contaminated
- Be careful around animal feces and clean up any fecal matter if possible.
- Keep the grass short in areas where cats or dogs regularly defecate
- Livestock such as pigs must be confined in pens and regularly cleaned.