There are four classifications of parasites. 30% live in our digestive systems while the other 70% live all over our bodies including, the blood, and all organs including the brain and even in our eyes and sinus cavities. There are over 1,000 types of parasites in these four classes that can live in the human body.
BACTERIA, VIRUSES and FUNGUS (mold, yeasts) are ALL in the very broad parasite category.
70% of all parasites that can live in the human body are MICROSCOPIC – only 30% are visible to the naked eye.
Malaria is a microscopic infection. The “worm” parasites can range from ¼ inch to 33 feet long!
The following is a partial list from each of the four groups which will give you the general idea about how different parasites wreak havoc on our bodies.
THE PROTOZA (ONE CELL PARASITES)
Most parasites are ONE CELL PROTOZOA and they can invade ANY single cell in our bodies. Protozoa reproduce and multiply by duplicating themselves like a bacteria or virus.
TRICHOMONAS – lives in the female vagina and urethra and causes a slightly yellow discharge with itching and burning. It also lives in the prostate of men.
NERVOUS SYSTEM PROTOZA:
NAEGLERIA – this one is found in water and soil, but only one species – naegleria fowleri – can infect humans. The infection mimics bacterial meningitis and affects the brain and spinal cord. The parasite enters the body through underwater swimming and/or diving – the ameba then travels to the brain and spinal cord. Infection causes Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain inflammation, which leads to the destruction of brain tissue. Initial symptoms of PAM include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and stiff neck. Further destruction of brain tissue leads to confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance and body control, seizures, hallucinations. This disease progresses very rapidly and usually results in death in 3-7 days. This one is not common – only 24 reported cases in the United States between 1989 and 2000 – but it is caused from fresh water such as lakes, streams and hot springs – especially during dry summer months when the water levels are low and the temperature is above 80 degrees. It also comes from under-chlorinated swimming pools.
MALARIA – this is a blood parasite transmitted by mosquitoes that affects red blood cells.
BLASTOCYSTIS HOMINIS – this is a very common microscopic parasitic organism that is found throughout the world. Infection is called blastocystosis or blasto. Symptoms include loose stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, anal itching, weight loss and excessive gas. They can remain in the intestines for weeks, months and YEARS. It is unknown at this time how blasto is transmitted.
GIARDIA LAMBIA – They live in drinking water and are not affected by chlorine because of their hard outer shell. They cause severe stomach infections that are routinely misdiagnosed as the stomach flu, the stomach bug or a stomach virus with severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. The infection also causes gas and greasy stools that tend to float, fatigue, nausea, weight loss and dehydration. It is estimated that 50% of drinking water in the United States has the Giardia Lambia present. The symptoms show 1-2 weeks after infection and can last for 2-6 weeks. A giardia infection is very contagious.
CRYPTOSPORIDIUM – this parasite comes from run off water from cattle farms. The infection is called Cryptosporidiosis – also known as crypto. This parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time. This shell also makes it resistant to disinfectants. They are ideal carriers for many of our autoimmune diseases. During the past 2 decades, crypto has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease within humans in the United States. It may be found in drinking water and recreational water in EVERY REGION of the United States AND throughout the WORLD. The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps and/or pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms show 2-10 days after becoming infected and can last for 1-2 weeks.
AMERICAN TRYPANOSOMIASIS – also called Chagas Disease is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Worldwide, it is estimated that 16-18 million people are infected – of those, 50,000 will die each year. 20%-30% of infected people will develop the most severe symptoms TEN to FORTY YEARS after the initial infection. These symptoms include cardiac problems ,swollen esophagus and/or swollen large bowel.
TUBERCULOSIS- this parasite lives in the white blood cells and kills over 3 million people per year.
LYMPHATIC FILARIASIS-this disease is caused by microscopic, thread-like worms. The adult worms only live in the human lymph system. The human lymph system maintains the body’s fluid balance and fights infections. An adult worm lives for 5-7 years – when the adults mate, millions of microscopic eggs are passed onto the blood. Symptoms are not usually felt until after the adult worms die – because the lymph system is infected, fluid collects and causes swelling in the arms, legs and breasts. In men, the genital area also becomes swollen. Also, the swelling and decreased function of the lymph system makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections – so people with this parasite will have more bacterial infections.
PFISTERIA – come from undercooked or raw fish (sushi)
E COLI – this one comes from contaminated meat that is not fully cooked.
LEISHMANIASIS – from sand flies, this parasite infects the skin and causes skin sores and can cause internal damage to the spleen, liver and the bone marrow. The skin sores are called cutaneous leishmaniasis – they can change in shape and size over time. They look sort of like a volcano with a raised edge and central crater. Sometimes scabs form – and the sores can be painless OR painful. Some people have swollen glands near the sores. Internal leishmaniasis is called visceral leishmaniasis and is marked by fever, weight loss, an enlarged spleen and liver and swollen glands. New cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis number 1.5 BILLION per year worldwide while the visceral leishmaniasis new yearly cases number 500,000. Infection can last for years and it only takes one bite from a sand fly to obtain the initial parasite.
LISTERIA – from chicken
TRICHINELLA – from pork
SPIROCHETE – this parasite is carried by lice, ticks, fleas, mites and flying biting insects who all transmit them to humans. They cause relapsing fever, jaundice, Lyme disease, Vincent angina and Wyles disease.
ENTAMOEBA HISTOLYTICA – this is the most pathogenic amoeba for humans. It comes from contaminated water and foodstuffs and is spread through the anal – oral route. The infection causes bloody stools, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. They also affect the lungs and the brain. It usually takes 1-4 weeks for symptoms to show after becoming infected. The symptoms include loose stools, stomach pain and stomach cramping.
BALANTINIUM COLI – this comes from water that is contaminated with pig feces, such as pig farm run off water. This parasite stays in the intestinal mucous and causes diarrhea.
STRONGYLOIDES STERCORALIS – this is the most unusual of all of the parasites known to man. They can live with or without a host. The females can reproduce without a male. They infect the skin, then migrate to the lungs where they are coughed up and swallowed by the host. They then settle into the small intestine where they mature and reproduce.
ACANTHAMOEBA – can enter the skin through a cut, wound, or through the nostrils. Once inside the body, amebas can travel to the lungs and through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, especially the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).
CYCLOSPORIASIS – First case reported in 1979 – it is now found worldwide. Symptoms include watery, explosive diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, gas, cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever and fatigue. Symptoms show about one week after becoming infected and can last for days to months in cycles.
DIENTAMOEBA FRAGILIS – this parasite lives in the large intestines – it is found worldwide. Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain and cramping, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea and fatigue. This parasite infection stays in the large intestine – it does not spread to other parts of the body.
THE NEMATODES (ROUNDWORMS)
These are what most people think of when it comes to human parasites. They are the pinworms, the whipworms, and the hookworms. They are of course bigger than the one-celled protozoa, but they are all round and small and can cause a staggering amount of damage. It is a big misconception that we actually eat worms to become infected – we actually ingest the microscopic eggs which then hatch in our bodies.
PINWORMS – the #1 parasite in the North America and Europe. They cause an itchy anus, digestive problems, irritability and insomnia. They are the most readily seen of all of the species of parasites because they live in the colon and they come out at night to lay their eggs in the anus and on bedclothes. The adults are white and ½ inch long. The eggs can become airborne and are able to live without host for 2 days. They are also transmitted by the anus – hand – mouth route. School age children followed by preschoolers have the highest infestation rates. If one member of a family has pinworms, it is highly likely that all members are infected. Children in day care centers and institutional settings are also at high risk for infestation from other children. If a child scratches, then touches something, the microscopic eggs are easily left for another child to put into their mouth.
HOOKWORMS – are also called “Necator Americanus” which means the American Murderer. They come from contaminated food and water. The eggs hatch in the intestines then migrate to the lungs through the bloodstream where they are coughed up and swallowed. They then travel back to the small intestine to reproduce. In the lungs they can cause pneumonia . In the intestines they hook themselves into the intestinal walls where each one drinks up to 1cc of blood per day causing bleeding and tissue death, not to mention anemia weakness. Hookworms from dogs and cats penetrate human skin and stay there causing skin problems and rashes including edema. (We get these from pets licking us or us petting or grooming them.) Hookworms also cause asthma, eye pain, insomnia, and dry skin and hair. Itching and a rash at the site of where skin touched soil or sand is usually the first sign of infection. These symptoms occur when the larvae penetrate the skin. While a light infection may cause no symptoms, heavy infection can cause anemia, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Heavy, chronic infections can cause stunted growth and mental development.
WHIPWORMS – attach themselves to the intestinal wall where they inject their digestive fluid into the tissue which then turns into a liquid. They then suck up this liquid. This causes anemia, bloody stools, lower abdominal pain, weight loss and nausea. Each female can lay 10,000 eggs per day and each adult can live for several years. When the eggs are passed out through your feces (unseen) they are able to live for three weeks without a host. If you touch an object (public shopping cart, salt shaker, doorknob, etc.) that has an egg on it, then put your finger in your mouth – you are infected.
ASCARIS – is a round worm that lives in the small intestine. Adult female worms can grow to over 12 inches in length – adult males are smaller. Ascariasis is the most common human worm infection – children are infected more often than adults. Most people have no symptoms that are noticeable, but infection in children may cause slower growth and slower weight gain. If you are heavily infected, you may have abdominal pain. Sometimes, while the immature worms migrate through the lungs, you may cough and have difficulty breathing. If you have a very heavy worm infection, your intestines may become blocked. You may cough up an ascaris larvae or pass an adult worm in your stool. Ascaris eggs are found in human feces. After feces contaminates the soil, the eggs become infectious after a few weeks. Infection occurs when a person accidentally ingests (swallows) infectious microscopic Ascaris eggs. Once in the stomach, immature worms hatch from the eggs. The larvae are carried through the lungs and then to the throat where they are swallowed. Once swallowed, they reach the intestines and develop into adult worms. Adult female worms lay eggs that are then passed in feces; this cycle will take between 2-3 months.
BAYLISASCARIS – this roundworm infects raccoons and other animals including humans. The eggs can live in the soil for YEARS. Humans become infected when they accidentally ingest the microscopic eggs from water, soil or other objects. The eggs hatch into larvae which travel through the body affecting organs and muscles. The symptoms – which can take a week or more to show – include nausea, fatigue, liver enlargement, loss of coordination and loss of muscle control. Severe cases can cause blindness and coma.
SCHISTOSOMIASIS – this infection comes from contaminated fresh water. Days after infection, itchy skin or a rash develops – after 1-2 months, fever, chills, cough and muscle aches set in. The body reacts to the eggs produced by these worms, not the worms themselves. The eggs can be found in the brain, spinal cord and can cause seizures, spinal cord inflammation and paralysis. The parasite can damage the liver, intestines, lungs and bladder.
THE TREMATODES (FLUKES)
The flukes are the hardest parasites to get rid of as they can stay in the human body for 10-20 years with each adult fluke living for one year. Flukes come from raw fish, undercooked water plants (such as watercress) and are also carried by dogs, cats and other fish-eating animals. They are also found in beef, chicken, pork and unwashed vegetables.
LIVER FLUKES- infect billary ducts and gall bladders. They start out as small white flattish worms – wider on one end and more narrow on the other. The young adults are various shades of pink while the older adults are bright red to almost black in color. The longer they live in the liver – the darker in color they become because the blood from the liver stains their skin.
LUNG FLUKES – are found in the lungs and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer on x-rays. They cause cough, blood tinged mucous, and vague chest pains.
BLOOD FLUKES – travel all over the human body and into all organs including the brain and spinal cord. They can cause seizures and they destroy red blood cells.
THE CESTODES (TAPEWORMS)
Most tapeworms are ½ inch long and are a grayish white color, but there are some species that can grow to 33 feet long and can lay over 1 million eggs per day. Tapeworm bodies are mostly reproductive organs. Their head hooks into the intestinal wall, the length of their bodies is made up of section that are nothing but ovaries and testes for reproduction and their “tails” release these eggs. These eggs hatch into larvae that can migrate to other parts of the human body and can form cysts. Even if the sections are broken off, the tapeworm can regenerate itself from only it’s head. Some tapeworms can live for 25 years.
PORK TAPEWORMS – are carried by undercooked pork or by the anus-hand-mouth route. They can incubate in the human body for up to 30 years before reproducing. They can affect the eyes and the brain. The infection is called CYSTICERCOSIS. When the cysticerci are found in the brain, the condition is called neurocysticercosis. Once inside the body, the tapeworm egg hatches, penetrates the intestine, travels through the bloodstream and may develop into cysticerci in the muscles, brain or eyes. Signs and symptoms of infection will depend on how many there are and where in the body they are located. You may feel lumps in the muscles, under the skin. They may float in the eyes causing blurry or disturbed vision. They can also cause swelling of the eyes. In the brain, they cause headaches and seizures – they also cause confusion, lack of attention, balance difficulties and swelling of the brain (hydrocephalus). Heavy infections can cause sudden death.
FISH TAPEWORM – this is the largest of the species, it can grow to 33 feet in length. It causes anemia, water retention and weight gain as it makes the host uncontrollably hungry.
DOG TAPEWORMS – are passed along to us from cats and dogs through petting and grooming. It is called DIPYLIDIUM CANINUM – it is found throughout the world. The adult tapeworm is made up of many small segments – the tapeworm itself can measure 4-28 inches long – each segment is about the size of a grain of rice. As the adult tapeworms matures inside the intestines, these segments break off and pass in the stool – they look like grains of rice – are hard and are a white/slightly yellowish color. These segments are about 2mm long and are what contains the tapeworm eggs.
Alveolar Echinococcosis – AE disease results from being infected with the larval stage of Echinococcus multilocularis, a microscopic tapeworm (1-4 millimeters) found in foxes, coyotes, dogs, and cats. Although human cases are rare, infection in humans causes parasitic tumors to form in the liver, and, less commonly, the lungs, brain, and other organs. If left untreated, infection with AE can be fatal. AE is caused by tumor-like or cyst-like tapeworm larvae growing in the body. AE usually involves the liver, but can spread to other organs of the body. Because the cysts are slow-growing, infection with AE may not produce any symptoms for many years. Pain or discomfort in the upper abdominal region, weakness, and weight loss may occur as a result of the growing cysts. Symptoms may mimic those of liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
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