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Human Whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) Eggs

Whipworms are intestinal parasites belonging to the relatively large genus Trichuris. Numerous species of whipworms exist throughout the world and may affect a wide variety of mammals, though most exhibit a high degree of host specificity.

Trichuris trichiura is the species of whipworm that is primarily found in humans. The parasites, which exhibit a tapered whip-like shape in their adult form, live in the hostís large intestine with their thin anterior ends implanted in the intestinal lining. They may remain there for several years, feeding upon tissue secretions and producing thousands of eggs daily that are excreted with bodily wastes. It is through the consumption of these eggs, which become infective after approximately three weeks, that new infections occur. Thus, it is in areas where sanitation is poor that the greatest number of outbreaks occur. Also, children are much more likely to suffer from whipworm infections than adults because they often spend time playing in dirt and may incidentally ingest contaminated soil.

The percentage of people infected with whipworms is difficult to determine because many do not exhibit any symptoms of illness. Symptoms, which may consist of abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, loss of appetite, pallor, anemia, and related problems, are generally limited to those that suffer from very heavy infections. In children, incidences of whipworm-related physical and mental retardation have also been documented. Prognosis is typically very good, however, for those who receive proper treatment in a timely fashion.


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