They are difficult to observe, those electron microscope images of elongated, colorful, zig-zagging microorganisms.
Imagining them inside a human organism is simply disgusting.
A parasite is an organism that lives in another host organism (such as humans) and obtains its food at the expense of it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States explains that there are three main classes of parasites that can cause disease in humans: protozoa, helminths and ectoparasites.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which have consistently suffered from the lack of attention from the public health community, include parasitic diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, and Guinea worm disease.
NTDs affect more than 1 billion people worldwide, mainly in rural areas of low-income countries. However, parasitic infections also affect people living in developed countries.
Microscope image of Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. It is transmitted by an insect called vinchuca, which lives on the thatched roofs of houses in rural areas of Latin America. | Photo: Getty Images
In the United States, the CDC indicates that:
- There are about 300,000 people living are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease, which can lead to heart failure and death.
- They are mostly immigrants from Latin America who come from areas where this disease is endemic (means that it persists in an area where it has not been eradicated).
- About 300 babies are born each year with the parasite that causes Chagas.
CDC has focused on five parasitic infections as priorities for public health action, based onl number of people infected, severity of illness or capacity to prevent and treat them. In addition to Chagas, they include:
Neurocysticercosis. It is the most common cause of seizures in some areas. It is estimated that it generates about 1,000 hospitalizations a year.
Toxocariasis. A parasitic infection of dogs and cats that affects humans and can cause blindness. It is estimated that 14% of the population has been exposed to this parasite and that about 70 people a year, mostly children, lose their sight due to toxocariasis.
Toxoplasmosis One of the main diseases caused by food. More than 60 million people in the United States have this infection chronically. In pregnant women the infection can affect the development of the fetus. In people with fragile immune systems, it can be fatal.
Trichomoniasis. ANDs a treatable infection that can increase the risk of contracting HIV and serious pregnancy problems, such as preterm labor and babies with low Birth weight. Nail 3.7 million people in the United States are affected.
Parasitic infections generate a huge burden of disease in almost all regions of the world. Of all the parasitic diseases, malaria is the world’s killer, killing more than 400,000 people each year, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.
These diseases take a heavy toll in populations where they are endemic, including loss of ability to attend school or work, stunted growth in children, impaired cognitive skills and children’s development. small, and the serious economic burden on entire countries.
How a person can become infected with parasites
There are several ways to get a parasite. Some of the most common are:
- By consuming or handling contaminated food and water
- When consuming undercooked meat
- By drinking contaminated water
- By handling or consuming dirty or contaminated fruits and vegetables
- By coming into contact with these microorganisms when barefoot, especially outdoors.
- Also through feces
Once a person is infected with a parasite, it is very easy to transmit it. If you have a parasite and don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom, you can easily rub microscopic parasite eggs on anything you touch – the bathroom door handle, the salt shaker, your phone, or anyone you touch.
It is also very easy to get a parasite from touching animals.
10 signs you might have parasites
One of the main signs of the presence of parasites in your body is from the toxins it releases into the bloodstream. So if the following symptoms occur, your doctor will surely order a complete blood test.
- Constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, or other unexplained symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Have traveled abroad and suffered from diarrhea
- Having suffered from food poisoning and having changed digestion patterns (symptoms of poor digestion that began to appear after the illness and have persisted)
- Never feeling satisfied or full after meals.
- Trouble sleeping or waking up multiple times throughout the night
- Unexplained skin irritations or rashes, hives, rosacea, or eczema.
- Grinding your teeth while sleeping (bruxism)
- Feeling pain in muscles or joints
- Fatigue, exhaustion, mood swings, depression, or frequent feelings of apathy.
- Have a diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia
- More information on diagnosis and treatment of parasitic diseases
Sources: CDC, Institute of Tropical Diseases, Westchester Health, Cleveland Clinic, University of Texas.