Most people think of parasites as something that only affects animals, but the truth is that parasites can also infect humans. Parasite diseases in humans are more common than you might think, and they can severely impact your health.
Many parasites, including protozoa, helminths, ectoparasitic, and arthropods, can infect humans.
Protozoan diseases happen due to single-celled parasites that can multiply and spread within the human body. They often become transmitted through contaminated food, water, or contact with an infected person. Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
Helminthic diseases happen due to multi-celled parasites that live in the intestine. They are typically transmitted through contaminated food or water and often cause no symptoms. However, some types of helminths can lead to severe malnutrition and death.
Trematode diseases happen due to parasitic flatworms that live in the blood or organs of their human hosts. They are typically transmitted through contact with contaminated water and can cause various symptoms depending on the type of trematode involved.
Some of the most common types of parasitic diseases in humans include:
-Amebiasis: Amebiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a single-celled organism called Entamoeba histolytica. This organism is found in contaminated water or food and can spread through contact with infected stool. Symptoms of amebiasis include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. If left untreated, amebiasis can lead to liver abscesses and death. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to preventing severe complications from amebiasis.
-Giardiasis: Giardiasis, also known as Giardia lamblia, is a parasitic infection affecting the small intestine. Giardiasis is caused by Giardia lamblia, a flagellated protozoan found in contaminated water and food. The Giardia parasite attaches to the small intestine lining and causes irritation and inflammation. Giardiasis is a common cause of diarrheal illness in developing countries. Giardiasis is also a common infection in travelers to developing countries. Giardiasis is usually treated with antibiotics.
-Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis, otherwise known as "trich," is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis. Trich is one of the most common STIs in the world, estimated 276 million new cases each year. Trich can affect men and women but happens more commonly in women. The symptoms of trich include itching, burning, pain during urination, and abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis. Trich is treated with antibiotics, and getting treatment as soon as possible is essential to avoid spreading the infection to others.
-Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated soil, water, or food. The parasite typically infects cats but can also infect other animals. Toxoplasmosis can cause severe illness in people with weakened immune systems and can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, fatigue, headaches, and body aches. If you think you may have been exposed to the parasite, please see a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for preventing severe health complications.
-Malaria: Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria typically causes fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. It can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death in severe cases. Single-celled microorganisms of the Plasmodium type cause malaria.
Ectoparasitic diseases happen due to parasites such as lice and fleas on the skin's surface. These parasites can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person or animal and often cause itching and irritation.
Parasitic infections can be challenging to diagnose because the symptoms can vary depending on the type of parasite and the person's response to the disease. Some common symptoms of parasitic infections include fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. If you think you may have a parasitic infection, it's essential to see a doctor so that you can get treatment.
Various treatments are available for parasitic infections, depending on the type of parasite involved. In some cases, doctors can use antiparasitic medications to kill the parasites. In other cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the parasites. In some cases, however, there is no effective treatment, and individuals must manage the infection symptomatically.
Preventing parasitic infections is often the best approach. You can reduce your risk of parasitic infection by practicing good hygiene, avoiding contact with contaminated food or water, and using insect repellent to avoid mosquito and tick bites. If you're planning to travel to an area where parasitic infections are common, talk to your doctor about preventive measures. For more information on new ways to combat infectious diseases, visit the research page.