Ascaris worms are intestinal parasites that infect the intestines of all species that eat infected food and water; it is also one of the most common parasitical forms of roundworms and according to the CDC, has managed to infect nearly 1.2 billion people, at one stage or the other; to put it in perspective, that’s nearly one person out of seven. Once you have consumed infected meat or had drunk infected water, the parasite moves down to your gut and begins its life cycle. It’s time that we took a closer look at one of the most common forms of parasitical worms, the Ascaris.
- Copulation: Ascaris is a nematode which essentially means that it needs a host to complete its life cycle but it is also monogenetic which means that it does not require several hosts but just one for its purpose. These roundworms often infest the intestine of the host and subside on semi-digested food particulates. It is in the intestinal gut that the male and female worms copulate by angling their bodies at a right angle to allow for a speedy transfer of essential body fluids which fertilizes the eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized, the female then lays around 200,000 eggs in the fecal matter in the intestine.
- Eggs: With the female laying over 200,000 eggs in the intestine, these eggs are extremely tiny and round or oval in shape. The eggs contain the nucleus and other developmental matter and pass out with other fecal matter. Various studies have indicated that these eggs can remain viable for a period of six years which makes them a potent threat to any living species. Once the eggs pass out through fecal matter, they are often cross transmitted to standing bodies of water and even food.
- Larvae: Once you consume a food item infected with these eggs, they soon hatch into larvae in the intestinal gut. Once they hatch, they soon burrow deep into the intestinal wall and make their way to the bloodstream. From here, the larva goes into a second stage larva as they make their way to the liver. They remain in the liver for a few days and after which they move on to the heart and then the lungs. The larvae remain in the lung for a few days as it grows in size and shape. It soon undergoes a molting as well, and finally, it enters the trachea and soon makes its way through the esophagus and back into the intestine.
- Adult: Back in the intestine, the larvae undergo two more molting before it transforms into an adult. So far, ten days have gone from the moment you consumed infected food to the larvae transforming into an adult worm in your gut. In about a period of six to ten weeks it becomes sexually matured and starts copulating with other worms, and soon the life cycle repeats all over again.
Humans are often the preferred host with this parasitical worm infecting mostly the young and the elderly; this is why we need to take effective measures when consuming food or drinking water.
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