Hookworm (Ancylostomiasis) (Necatoriasis) (Uncinariasis)

Hookworm is a parasitic infection of the gastrointestinal system caused by the worms: Ancylostoma duodenale, A. ceylanicum, A. braziliense, A. caninum and Necator americanus. The illness is well known for chronic infection resulting in iron deficiency anemia and malnutrition.

Where does it occur?

It is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical developing nations where sanitary facilities are not prevalent.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by infected larvae that penetrate the skin of humans, primarily the sole of the foot as they walk barefoot in contaminated soil.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low for travelers if visiting for short periods, staying in modern facilities and not walking around barefoot.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop a few weeks to months after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

One can initially see an intense, itchy redness and a boil-like rash when the larvae penetrate the skin of the foot – called “ground itch”. The larvae then enter the lungs through the bloodstream, and one can see symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain.

From oral secretions the larvae are then swallowed into the stomach, passing along the intestines and develop into worms in the small intestines. Depending on how many worms there are; one sees abdominal pain, diarrhea,  or weight loss secondary to malabsorption, etc.

Children can have stunted growth due to malabsorption.

Is there any treatment?

Medication like mebendazole, albendazole, levamisole and pyrantel pamoate are effective.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose illness?

One can see hookworm eggs in stool specimens.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid walking barefoot in developing nations.

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