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Ascaris lumbricoides
March 4, 2006 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Ascaris lumbricoides. According to estimates, about 1.5 billion people--about a quarter of the earth's population--are hosts to the Ascaris lumbricoides parasitic worm. Ascaris worms can grow to be 18 inches in length, and use their host's windpipe and esophagus to migrate between the small intestine and the lungs. A single human host may support dozen of large worms, which can be contracted by contact with fecal matter, animals, or undercooked pork. Under some circumstances (the worms dislike anesthesia, for example) one or more worms may exit from the mouth (a horrifying image), or the anus (one of the most disgusting images I have ever seen, and not safe for work, obviously). Here, the removal of a worm is caught on video (Realplayer). Too disgusting to post? Almost. But 1.5 billion people have got these in their bodies right now. That's what's grosser than gross.
posted by washburn (96 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is the most unspeakable thing I've seen in a long time, but worth the post.
posted by marvin at 10:15 PM on March 4, 2006


oh god, i hate all the parasitic worms.

I am not clicking on the images. I can't even handle the thought of people who have them, and the test results that wikipedia quotes are rather horrifying.

I'm not an hypochondriac, but whenever I read about this stuff my first thought is the possibility that i have one.

i can hardly even read the text of the post without freaking out.

so anyway uh thanks for the post.

i'm going to go look at pictures of bunnies now.
posted by blacklite at 10:16 PM on March 4, 2006


Oh hey wait, I've been under general anaesthesia before. so I am wormless! then. I hope.
posted by blacklite at 10:18 PM on March 4, 2006


On one hand, my mother had a worm that her older brother snatched and pulled out of her through her nose when she was a kid.

On the other hand, I have a friend from college who went to the Carribeans on a 4th year Biology field trip, got (a) worm(s), returned 'stateside, lost 50 pounds from 160 or so, had to re-tailor her hand-tailored wedding dress, got rid of the worms, then prompty swelled up to 280-320 pounds.

I dunno whether to condemn or welcome our worm overlords.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:29 PM on March 4, 2006


I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

At least, I hope that's what it was. I'm afraid it might be a parasitic worm coming out to say hi to a cousin.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:31 PM on March 4, 2006


dear lord, Washburn, what promoted this post?!

more scary than any picture is that line from the wikipedia article:
"One study indicated that the prevalence of ascariasis in the United States at about 4 million (2%)". Talk about not knowing your neighbours, eh? Well, it illustrates how important public health programs - and public education! - are.

blacklite, where did you read about the general anaesthesic? Was that from the wikipedia article? Granted, I kind of skimmed all of it, for some reason - the gross out factor was a bit much.
posted by rmm at 10:34 PM on March 4, 2006


ick! a childhood friend once told me a story about contracting worms while in Haiti and discovering it when one "exited through the anus," the act of recalling which still causes me to run shreiking through the house.
posted by mwhybark at 10:35 PM on March 4, 2006


I have to say that while the picture of the worms exiting the anus was gross, the picture of the worms exitng a child's mouth and nose was much worse.

Anyway, who wants to register wormse.cx?
posted by delmoi at 10:35 PM on March 4, 2006


Wow.
Is it just me, or did those pics totally remind anyone else of the ol' sprouting potato/toothpicks/glass of water science project... but with the role of Glass of Water played by some dude's ass?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2006


On the other hand, I have a friend from college who went to the Carribeans on a 4th year Biology field trip, got (a) worm(s), returned 'stateside, lost 50 pounds from 160 or so, had to re-tailor her hand-tailored wedding dress, got rid of the worms, then prompty swelled up to 280-320 pounds.

I read a sci-fi story that involved genetically engineered worms to keep people slender.

That said, I can't imagine they're that benign. I mean, if a worm was taking some of your food, wouldn't you just eat more?
posted by delmoi at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2006


I've been wondering for a long time how prevalent parasites are in the U.S. and if doctors are used to looking for them. This started back in 2002 with the onset of mysterious unidentified and ongoing gastrointestinal distress. I not only have the usual inner hypochondriac many of us have when encountering this stuff, I was also the kind of person who'd hang out in random hotpots, occasionally drink water from springs/natural sources on being told it's safe, cheerfully eat the local dishes (except Belut) when visiting Mexico or Brazil or enclaves of immigrant communities in Los Angeles, eat random things on a dare while camping, ignore food sanitation, etc.

Realizing this when the illness hit and nothing had been identified and the diagnosis was moving towards IBS (which I have trouble thinking of as a diagnosis; it seems more like a named collection of symptoms with unidentified causes to me), I eventually asked two of the doctors I saw about parasites. Both of them pretty much shrugged the possibility off without asking further questions.

Since then, I've been curious about that reaction. I've wondered if parasite infection is so rare here in the U.S. that it's simply not worth considering on the first line, or if my symptoms just had "not parasites" written all over them, or if it's not on the radar or thought enough as a "third world" thing that it's a possibility that gets ignored here when it shouldn't.
posted by weston at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


oh god. i've been sick with food poisoning (i think) for the past 2 days, thanks for posting this right before i go to sleep.

The video was a particularly lovely addition. :-)
posted by jba at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2006


dear lord, Washburn, what promoted this post?! Well, I was pretty surprised that I didn't know about this problem (which someone told me about the phone today), given both how big and nasty and how widespread these things are. I'd have thought that relief agencies and people in the media would have made more of these creepy things. They seem like they would make a suitable "poster child" for the suffering that results from global poverty. I know it makes me want to increase the small monthly donation I make to Oxfam America. Maybe I should have linked to them or to other aid agencies in my original post. The more people know about this, the better, I suppose.

On preview: delmoi: I agree. But I figured that where one was merely disgusting, the other was horrifying. Which still seems about right, I think.
posted by washburn at 10:42 PM on March 4, 2006


rmm, it was from the post text -- I assume washburn has a source somewhere. "Under some circumstances (the worms dislike anesthesia, for example) one or more worms ..."
posted by blacklite at 10:48 PM on March 4, 2006


one or more worms may exit from the mouth (a horrifying image), or the anus (one of the most disgusting images I have ever seen, and not safe for work, obviously)

Great post!
At least one doesn't have to watch these worms traveling across one's eyeball and hence visual field. (Another image I might have missed were it not for Metafilter.)
posted by Aknaton at 10:49 PM on March 4, 2006


I read somewhere some years back (when researching Korea as a place to possibly go to teach English) that it's likely that every single urban resident of South Korea has worms, due to the poor sanitary conditions under which pork is coked at street kiosks, from which everyone eats. The same utensils are used to handle both raw and cooked pork and they're never cleaned throughout the day. Net result: if you eat street meat in Seoul long enough, you get worms. And everyone in Seoul has been doing so long enough.

Shudder.

And I'm not looking at those pictures. Someone sent me a link to a worm infestation photo on rotten.com once, and it scarred me for months.

(Aside: the fear of infestation by worms is helminthophobia)
posted by solid-one-love at 10:51 PM on March 4, 2006


From an old Straight Dope:
Dear Cecil:

I am a medical technologist who works in a parasitology lab (looking through peoples' poop for the eggs of critters like this), so when I read your column, I couldn't help but recognize the reference to Ascaris! According to an emergency room nurse who I chatted with once on the subject, she even observed an instance where the roundworms were irritated enough by an infected patient's labor pains to migrate out her nose, mouth, and anus as she delivered a baby. Isn't nature interesting? --Cathy Snider, Elgin, Texas

Cecil replies:

Thanks, Cathy. We needed to know this.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:51 PM on March 4, 2006


At least one doesn't have to watch these worms traveling across one's eyeball and hence visual field.

!!!!!!
I missed that post, apparently. And I am now considering not reading this thread anymore. But it's just words, I think I can handle words. I think.
posted by blacklite at 10:55 PM on March 4, 2006


Food dropped on the floor should never be eaten without washing or cooking, particularly in endemic areas.

...unless it remains on the endemic floor for less then 5 seconds or less.
posted by iamck at 11:13 PM on March 4, 2006


Tapeworms are also quite nasty. They're long, too. Those grains of rice that seem to be popping up all over the place since you let your cat outdoors? Bits of dried tapeworm. Do not ingest.

They're mean-looking, freakishly long, have four... things, and come in different models.

I've long held that one of the greatest insults to the culinary arts is the overcooking of pork. Pork tapeworms have changed my mind. Beef tapeworms, though, might be trained to become a dieting buddy, as they're more likely to sit and chill in your digestive tract.

Remember, folks: whenever you have an itch, don't scratch. POUND THE EVERLIVING HELL OUT OF IT. Make sure you kill whatever's crawling under there. Never know. Could be a worm.
posted by herrdoktor at 11:27 PM on March 4, 2006


Great. Now I feel worms crawling just under my skin and in my gut.
posted by Jesse H Christ at 11:29 PM on March 4, 2006


I HATE this post.



I mean, it's interesting, and I'm not easily squicked, but really, now. [seriously- it is a good post, I'm just whining.]

*tears out eyeballs and wanders the countryside*
posted by exlotuseater at 11:40 PM on March 4, 2006


I have been sitting in horror with my scarf over my mouth as if that will prevent me puking since I looked at those pictures.

Now I am living in fear that I have them. Oh. My. God.
posted by anjamu at 11:44 PM on March 4, 2006


Great post.

I took a class with a professor who got his PhD in parasitology. The class reacted to his stories much the same as MeFi is: Disgusted, but we can't turn away.

I've got two creepy parasite stories:
In one, back in the 1910's or 1920's, some parasitologist was roaming around the Congo looking for specimens. It was a very new field of study then, and the Congo of course hadn't been thoroughly explored. This parasitologist happened upon a totally new species of worm. He had no way of keeping the thing alive to bring back to the states, and even if he did, there's no way he could get it through customs. So, he deliberately swallowed it, trusting his know-how to get the thing loose once he got home.

Second story.

Guy visits Africa. Years later (maybe as long as 30 years), he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. During surgery, they find that it's not a brain tumor at all.

Turns out, while in Africa, he had eaten raw frog (apparently it was the thing to do). He picked up a parasite known to be spread this way, which had spread through his system, taken up residence in his brain, where it laid its eggs. Over time, his body had walled off the eggs and encalcified them. To prove I'm not making this up, here is a link to a very similar case. (With CAT scan imagery)

Never take for granted indoor plumbing, sewage treatment, and chlorinated water.
posted by Brian James at 11:57 PM on March 4, 2006


And to think that all this time I've been afraid of the spiky eurethra fish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:58 PM on March 4, 2006


But what a handy way for fishermen to carry bait.
posted by Cranberry at 12:05 AM on March 5, 2006


It's where I keep my spare change!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 AM on March 5, 2006


Tonight at a party I had a delightful conversation with a team leader from one of the county ag programs that puts out and checks insect traps (watching for specific ag pests). She said often there are spiders caught in the same traps, and she takes them out (especially the big wolf spiders with all the little babies riding on their backs) and puts them in her pockets to carry them 'til she gets off work and can leave them somewhere safer. The other workers just kill them.

Nature is wonderful. Sometimes you give the ride voluntarily, sometimes the rider arrives unannounced.

Can't we all just get along?
posted by hank at 12:08 AM on March 5, 2006


Now the good news:

Just as bloodsuckers have found a new leech on life in medical therapy, so too intestinal worms may turn: ingestion of parasites is being studied for treatment of certain irritable bowel diseases. According to studies at the University of Iowa, "patients with Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis [drank] pig whipworm eggs ... which developed into worms inside the patients. Over time, the majority of patients improved." And this article describes how helminthic therapy is being explored as a treatment for asthma, hay fever and diabetes. Among the challenges, not surprisingly: improving the packaging and delivery systems of the worm smoothies.
posted by rob511 at 12:19 AM on March 5, 2006


A worse squick for me than worms exiting thru orifices are worm that make their own. There is some variety of worm that enters and exits thru the sole of people's feet and grows to be up to a metre long. Could you imagine sitting around the fire one evening and having a 1 metre worm burrow it's way out of your foot?
posted by Mitheral at 12:38 AM on March 5, 2006


Mitheral, if I remember correctly, those worms have to be carefully pulled out. You attach the head of the thing to a stick, and wind it up, maybe a centimeter a day. Otherwise, it will break off and die and decompose in your leg.

Or so I was told by people who wanted to scare the bajeezus out of me.
posted by cmyk at 12:53 AM on March 5, 2006


That's Guinea Worm. It's slowly being eradicated and is now confined to Africa. I saw some horrible cases of it as a kid in Kenya. Philanthropists wanting to do maximum good with their largesse would do well to consider funding anti-Guinea Worm campaigns. It's pretty disastrous for the communities afflicted by it.
posted by Jenga at 12:54 AM on March 5, 2006


...well there goes any hope of getting to sleep tonight.
posted by asterisk at 12:55 AM on March 5, 2006


Wow... just wow, fucked up indeed.
posted by Dreamghost at 1:06 AM on March 5, 2006


Never take for granted indoor plumbing, sewage treatment, and chlorinated water.
posted by Brian James at 11:57 PM PST on March 4 [!]


Amen to that, brother.

by the way I haven't opened a single link and I don't ever intend to do so
posted by recurve at 1:22 AM on March 5, 2006


cmyk writes "You attach the head of the thing to a stick, and wind it up, maybe a centimeter a day."

Yes I think that's it, I guess I'd suppressed the memory of the wind it on a stick bit.
posted by Mitheral at 1:23 AM on March 5, 2006


This is the first thing I read after just arriving back from spending the night in the emergency room with someone who has acute stomach pain, cause still unknown. How the mind wanders.
posted by digitalis at 1:48 AM on March 5, 2006


solid-one-love, an interesting fact about Korea and worms -- if you go to a pharmacy and ask for kisaengchung-medicine (parasite medicine) they'll give you this small bottle/vial. You're supposed to swallow in one go; it tastes unspeakably horrible. Apparently a few decades ago the medicine would only provoke the parasite worms to come out, and you'd see a white coagulated mass as a result; nowadays apparently it just melts 'em all. I cringe to think of what it would do to your innards in the process..

I have wonderful memories of when I was twelve, drinking the medicine after a few itchy nights and peering over a porcelain bowl trying to discern between... well, you know..


(should I post this? a lifetime of google searches postmarked by a post on adolescent scatological adventures... ah, shit, why not....)

posted by provolot at 1:50 AM on March 5, 2006


For all of you who are giving thanks for indoor plumbing, sewage treatment, and so forth, be sure to read rob511's second link.

There is an evolving body of thought that many diseases related to an over-active immune system—everything from ulcerative colitis to asthma, hay fever and allergic rashes, and even such disastrous illnesses as multiple sclerosis—may be due to *lack* of parasite infestation. Why? Because the mammalian immune system evolved in animals which were chronically infested with parasitic worms, as all animals are in a state of nature. Those worms released chemicals which modulated the immune system (in a successful attempt to protect themselves from it). In the absence of those worms and the humeral modulators they release, the human immune system goes a little nuts.

Modern sanitation and medical treatments for parasitic worms may be both a blessing and a curse. I might well be willing to share the wealth with a couple of hookworms, if it meant my allergic rhinitis would go away.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:55 AM on March 5, 2006



posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:09 AM on March 5, 2006


This all is kind of amusing in that a number of us are not actually clicking the links, despite the fact that theoretically MeFi is for, you know, link-posting. I'm going to try and sleep now. I will just think of bunnies.
posted by blacklite at 2:12 AM on March 5, 2006


Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair...
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:45 AM on March 5, 2006


Suppose one is now terrified of harboring these. Does one go to a doctor to give him the day's laugh and a joke to tell his family, or does one go to Chinatown and hope madly that someone understands kisaengchung?
posted by booksandlibretti at 3:17 AM on March 5, 2006


Over time, his body had walled off the eggs and encalcified them

I had a nightmare similar to this a few days ago - except they hatched out! Gah. Great post though (in a "I can't believe I'm clicking on this link" way).
posted by greycap at 3:34 AM on March 5, 2006


So much for the 5 second rule.
posted by srboisvert at 3:53 AM on March 5, 2006


This whole thread gives me the Shivers [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073705/]
posted by Gungho at 4:56 AM on March 5, 2006


Does one go to a doctor to give him the day's laugh...

If you think you have worms, in Australia, you can buy an over the counter remedy (quite often tasting like chocolate). Something like Vermox? As soon as your kid starts scratching their bottom, that's it - the whole family gets wormed.
posted by b33j at 5:06 AM on March 5, 2006


Obvious.
posted by moonbird at 5:07 AM on March 5, 2006


la la la *I'm not listening, I'm not listening*la la la
posted by madamjujujive at 5:32 AM on March 5, 2006


Anyone living near a power plant warm water discharge should be very careful of any fish caught near the discharge. Fish are prolific parasite carriers.
posted by bjgeiger at 6:08 AM on March 5, 2006


I hope none of you eat sushi.
posted by crunchland at 6:17 AM on March 5, 2006


Contrary to what's said in that sushi link, crunchland (that you'll only get little worms from sushi, not big one or two foot long worms) a BBC programme I saw about worms told of some guy who after eating raw cod, which harboured a worm egg cyst (somehow the word 'cyst' makes it seem all the worse - *shudder*) found himself host to a 30 meter-long muthafucka.
posted by Blue Stone at 6:36 AM on March 5, 2006


My mom's a microbiologist, and while these worms aren't exactly micro, she often had to identify them when doctors sent them in to the lab.

In 4h grade, she got me a preserved Ascaris to take to the Trading Post guy when he visited my school (do they do that anywhere other than Wichita?). I explained what it was, he didn't really understand, but I talked him into giving me 200 points for it. I traded my points for a peacock feather and some shiny rocks.

In 5th grade, I got her to bring me another one to use for a science project. It grossed out all my friends. I still have it in a jar in the basement.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:20 AM on March 5, 2006


I can't believe no one's linked back to what's definitely one of the best--and most disgusting--tapeworm stories around.
posted by LairBob at 7:45 AM on March 5, 2006


> I'm not an hypochondriac, but whenever I read about this stuff my first
> thought is the possibility that i have one.

Former bio TA here. Ascaris is a nematode but not remotely the only one. Nematodes (mostly microscopic) are so common that if every part of you were removed except the nematodes you host, a sort of ghostly you would still be visible. The soil is crawling with roundworms. And eggs! Every time you breathe a puff of dust you acquire a few million more. Can't think how you eco-freaks (of which I am one) could possibly object to this. How can you love the majestic redwoods but not the majestic roundworms? There's a lot more to Old Mother Nature than bunnies. (Which are, needless to say, simply writhing with hosted roundworms.)

posted by jfuller at 7:53 AM on March 5, 2006


I did a post on this parasitic worm, on Metafilter, a while back :

"My very own parasite "I swear it had two beady eyes on it. And it came out two or three inches, looked around and then retracted. I thought it was a dream, a vision of some sort.""

The post was about a guy who discovered he was infested with these worms when - one day in a restaurant - one of his secret little buddies crawled out of his nose and caused a waiter to run screaming out of the restaurant. So, the wormy guy chases down the waiter who, rendered speechless and hysterical, can only point, in terror, to the nose the the worm had poked its head out from.
posted by troutfishing at 8:34 AM on March 5, 2006


Oh god,...sushi. I forgot about that. I'm going to drink a liter of Wild Turkey right now to disinfect.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2006


From rob511's second link: ingestion of parasites is being studied for treatment of certain irritable bowel diseases...Weinstock says despite efforts over the years to eliminate these wriggling creatures, worms may someday play a vital role in many people’s health.

That's amazing. But it makes sense, too; we evolved along with these things for millions of years.

Also, for those horribly squicked, keep in mind that in most (all?) of these cases there are easy treatments available that Kill Worms Dead pretty quickly once discovered. It's the discovering that's the squicky part.
posted by mediareport at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2006


"Oi! Where's me cream cake! *SPLAT!*"

Punchline to the best tapeworm joke ever. Actually, it's the only tapeworm joke ever, I think
posted by Decani at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2006


No, mediareport, I'm pretty sure it's what happens after they've been discovered and after you take the medicine that's worse.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:27 AM on March 5, 2006


Why is it that, when a link is labeled as "a horrifying image", I cannot help but click it? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY?
posted by graventy at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2006


Best post EVER.
posted by S.C. at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2006


Could you imagine sitting around the fire one evening and having a 1 metre worm burrow it's way out of your foot?

One of the links does have a pic similar to this a click or two behind it. I'll let you spend a nice, carefree Sunday afternoon looking for it.
posted by gimonca at 10:08 AM on March 5, 2006



posted by gimonca at 10:13 AM on March 5, 2006


Excellent post. Well researched, well written.
posted by stbalbach at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2006


Unfortunate, since single-dose albendazole or mebendazole are both very efficacious in treating Ascaris. Linky.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2006


Let's not forget this guy.
posted by skepticallypleased at 11:49 AM on March 5, 2006


but whenever I read about this stuff my first thought is the possibility that i have one

Same.

You feel much worse when you've actually been to some of those places. I've walked around in jungles and never been freaked out at the leeches that gently sucked from my warm blood bag of a body. But the very thought of worms makes me pause... maybe, who knows...

I've been wondering for a long time how prevalent parasites are in the U.S. and if doctors are used to looking for them.

You don't have to wonder: the answer is, they're not. This after nearly dying from a ravaging malarial infection that my first doctor poo-poo'd as "a bad case of flu." After my second iteration of the disease, when I was treated at Mass. General, I was something of a celebrity amongst the mostly-Harvard med students making the rounds. At one point they had about 20 students all crowded in my tiny room to hear me regail them of my saga of asinine stupidity ("be... sure... to... drink... your... to-nic-wa-ter.")

I'd take that over worms any day of the week, any week of the year.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:56 AM on March 5, 2006


Initial impression (and I'm one of the "don't need to click that to see it" folks) is "Eeeeeewh!" Squick!

Then I read this: Nematodes (mostly microscopic) are so common that if every part of you were removed except the nematodes you host, a sort of ghostly you would still be visible. The soil is crawling with roundworms. And eggs! Every time you breathe a puff of dust you acquire a few million more.

Oh, well...that makes it all better then.

*can't sleep, Nematodes will eat me*
posted by dejah420 at 12:14 PM on March 5, 2006


graycap yikes! This actually reminds me of some crazy dream I had awhile ago about "mindworms." (Apparently I was playing too much Alpha Centauri or something).

Scientists had discovered some weird sort of worm that likes to eat brain tumors. So basically, they were "good for you." They set them loose and these things would crawl around, seeking people out with brain tumors and scurry up their nose. The only way to know if you had a brain tumor was if these things went after you.

So I remember walking down the street being chased by a "herd" (what is a group of worms called?) of these mindworms and screaming that I don't have a brain tumor.

Weird.

I have an over active imagination me thinks.
posted by RockBandit at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2006


so long, and thanks for all the bunnies
posted by craven_morhead at 1:44 PM on March 5, 2006


Say, is that just a zit on your nose, or is it Demodex folliculorum?
posted by cenoxo at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2006


/KHAN/ These are pets, of course....not entirely domesticated. /KHAN/
posted by bitmage at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2006


oh god. maggots and worms are about the only things that churn my stomach. growing up fishing every weekend, hooking up a fat earthworm was always a cringe-inducing experience (it was the writhing in my hand that did it for me).

this is gross but what the hell: recently i pulled something from my bellybutton which totally freaked me out - some small object with fine, paintbrush-straight hair on one end, the other end being white and flexible like cartilage. it looks like a tiny deer hoof . . . and it was cold - wtf?
posted by visit beautiful mount weather! at 6:02 PM on March 5, 2006


The worm-on-a-stick is the origin of the medical symbol, the caduceus (hey, how many treatments could a physician administer in Ancient Greece-?), although many medical people vehemently refuse to believe it.

I used to work in a lab that dealt with Ascaris. They are known in the American south, but are not common.

Pinworms, on the other hand, are. I've seen estimates of up to 75% of Americans are infected (most estimates put it lower). The AMA considers it a childhood disease, but it's probable that adults are just asymptomatic.

They are probably benign (they might not even be technically parasites), but if they were determined to be dangerous it could be difficult to eradicate them - the eggs, laid by the near-microscopic female on the skin around the anus, fly off as dust (through clothing) and just need to be picked up off a surface and swallowed. You can treat for them, but the eggs are all over the place.

It just seemed that the Americans were being left out of the wormapaloosa...
posted by DarbyMac at 6:21 PM on March 5, 2006


Dear AskMeFi: Due to a recent thread, I am now scared shitless that I am infested with worms. What do I do?! I want to make damn sure I'm parasite-free!

Also:

WaararrrrrrrgghghhhHhhhh! ICKYICKYICKY! GET THEM OUTTA ME!

[shudder.]
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on March 5, 2006


Of course, some people also have delusional parasitosis, a pyschosis often stimulated by looking at pictures like these. Good times.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:02 PM on March 5, 2006




I think this is a different version of the joke that Decani is referring to, but it deserves to be told, in full....(that's the joke warning)

A guy goes to the doctor because he has tapeworms. The doctor says, "Come back tomorrow, bring a banana and a cookie." The guy returns the next day with a banana and a cookie. The doctor sticks the banana up his butt, waits a minute, and then sticks the cookie up his butt. The doctor gives the same instructions: "Come back tomorrow with a banana and a cookie." The guy does as told, and the doctor repeats the procedure. This goes on for a few more days, and then the doctor says, "Come back tomorrow with a banana and a hammer." The doctor sticks the banana up the guy's butt and waits. After a few minutes, the tapeworm sticks his head out and says, "Where's my cookie?" And the doctor hits him on the head with the hammer.

And no way am I clicking on any of those links, either.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 8:07 PM on March 5, 2006


Count me also among those who don't follow these links. But those worms make an anus-exiting appearance in a novel called Making History by Carolyn See. So, finally, confirmation of something I thought "No Way!" when first reading.

And crunchland, I often hear the sushi-worms thing from people who refuse raw fish. But that's why it's expensive (or should be -- if you're buying the cheap stuff, you may want to reconsider) -- the sushi chef has been trained to detect and reject any fish which might be wormy.
posted by Rash at 8:36 PM on March 5, 2006


This has got to be the single most horrifying post ever. I'm swearing off pork, fish, and fecal matter forever.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:22 PM on March 5, 2006


Jesus CHRIST.
I have to go KILL AND BURN myself now.
posted by 235w103 at 11:20 PM on March 5, 2006


Philanthropists wanting to do maximum good with their largesse would do well to consider funding anti-Guinea Worm campaigns.

Bill Gates to the rescue.
posted by disillusioned at 12:36 AM on March 6, 2006


Yes, there is life on ur anus.
posted by Goofyy at 3:32 AM on March 6, 2006


Great post.... I am (supposed to be) working on some Ascaris lumbricoides gene sequences as I speak.

I'll add another interesting fact that has come to light relatively recently; the effect of nematode (including Ascaris) infections on intelligence. Several recent studies (here's a link, search for 'ascaris' - that's the best free summary I could find) have shown that children in the developing world who have nematode infections perform worse on tests of academic ability than those who don't, and that treatment with anthelminthic drugs to get rid of the worms increases their performance. Thus, even if the worms don't actually make people ill, they still have an effect on their lives.

Looking forward to seeing more posts tagged with 'parasites'!
posted by primer_dimer at 4:31 AM on March 6, 2006


I'd like to have some kind of above-it-all response, but really I just want to run away from my monitor screaming after seeing the anus and mouth pictures.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 AM on March 6, 2006


Liquidwolf: "'I'm going to drink a liter of Wild Turkey right now to disinfect."

I'm going to start blaming my daily shakes on the worms I haven't knocked out yet.
posted by PhatLobley at 5:50 AM on March 6, 2006


Hookworms were endemic in the southern U.S. well into the 20th century -- up til WWII, in some areas -- and severe infestations caused anemia and general weakness. Along with pellagra, another widespread malady, hookworms contributed to the stereotype of the lazy southerner.

My Mississippi-bred grandmother warned us "You'll get worms!" at least fifty-seven times a day, related to whatever random behavior she objected to at that moment -- going barefoot, chewing on pencils, sliding down the muddy hill on cookie sheets, slamming the screen door.
posted by vetiver at 5:50 AM on March 6, 2006


Can someone with more than a passing acquaintance with anatomy or biology translate this for me? I can't quite make out how the larvae migrate between the digestive and respiratory systems.

Wikipedia (inset): (4), the larvae hatch (5), invade the intestinal mucosa, and are carried via the portal, then systemic circulation to the lungs . The larvae mature further in the lungs (6) (10 to 14 days), penetrate the alveolar walls, ascend the bronchial tree to the throat, and are swallowed (7).
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:32 AM on March 6, 2006


From the site with the Ascaris video linked above, here are more GI parasite videos (including more Ascaris). (self-link)
posted by McGuillicuddy at 6:52 AM on March 6, 2006


"Lombrigas" are pretty common around here, or at least were when I was a kid. One of the things parents should do for their kids health was a feces exam at least an year. Another option was to just give them vermifuges, and see if anything came alive on the potty. Of course, at that time, the treatment was some days taking vermifuge and "expelling them" (from below).

goodnews:
They hatch in the intestines, pass through the intestinal mucosa into the blood flow (just like nutrients), get to the lungs through the alveoles (like CO2), creeps up your trachea, then jumps down your esophagus. Thought Alien was scary?
posted by qvantamon at 7:51 AM on March 6, 2006


Thanks, qvantamon.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:16 AM on March 6, 2006


sorry, i just got here...has anybody used the term 'grody to the max' yet?

(i mean seriously, gag me with a fork!)
posted by sexyrobot at 4:45 PM on March 6, 2006


qvantamon-I flagged that fantastic answer even though it almost made me sick! The clear concise and horrifying nature of the answer makes it a classic.
posted by OmieWise at 4:58 PM on March 6, 2006


Oh Good God, why did I end up here? And why did I read the entire thread? I cannot stop twitching.
posted by nuala at 7:36 AM on March 7, 2006


That'd be the brain worms eating your motor control neurons, nuala...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2006


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