Being infested with parasites is something that you associate with people from faraway places. However, parasites that infect humans are a lot more common than you think. To add to this, a lot of them have no symptoms either, so a person can go years without knowing they’re infected.
Around 60% of the world’s population has at least one parasite in them right now. That’s correct, there’s more than a 50/50 chance that you have one inside you right now. Below you’ll find 8 common asymptomatic parasites that could be a lot nearer to you than you could ever have imagined.
Do you like to eat you steak rare? Well, tapeworms, which can grow up to 15 meters long, get inside their human hosts from raw or undercooked meats. These parasites love to live in peoples’ intestines and are transferred from animals, mostly cows and pigs. This happens either through the consumption of infected meat or unwashed veggies.
If you digest a tapeworm larva, it can live inside you for almost 30 years, feasting off your intestinal wall. The tapeworm’s eggs can be dangerous as they can develop into cysts on vital organs.
2. Liver Flukes
These parasites infect the bile duct and liver. One way that they can infect a human is through the consumption of undercooked freshwater fish that share the same environment. Mature flukes will cause chronic inflammation of the bile ducts, leading to gallstones. While the majority of liver fluke infections appear in developing countries, there have been cases in California, Florida, and Hawaii.
Hookworms enter their human host through the feet, sometimes leaving itchy rashes at their entry point. They will then travel along the bloodstream until they reach the lungs. Once at the lungs, they irritate the lung tissue enough that the infected host starts coughing them up. If they then get swallowed, the hookworm has reached its desired home: the small intestine.
This parasite is more prominent in poor countries as it’s can be easily transferred from person to person through feces. If infected feces isn’t managed properly or spread in the soil, it can easily affect others. Being infected by hookworms can cause lethargy and mental incapacity.
These parasites can be spread very easily, and are the most common parasite in North America. They live on the human anus, so it only takes one scratch, and then anything that person touches will be covered in pinworm eggs. If someone swallows an egg, they’ll become infected. Pinworm infections are mostly found in children, but they can easily affect anyone who has been exposed to them.
This is a roundworm infestation that attacks the small intestine. It is usually spread through undercooked meat or exposure to human feces, but it can also be spread by direct contact with a contaminated human.
Children are at higher risk of getting infected as they have a greater tendency to stick their hands in their mouths. They can cause bloated stomachs and pain, but mostly they just live in your stomach until they are ready to be expelled from the body.
6. Echinococcus Granulosus
Our canine friends can give us this parasite which will slowly grow inside its human host for years. This is a tapeworm-like larva that creates cyst-like lesions on the liver or in the lungs.
This is a roundworm infestation that usually occurs after eating undercooked or raw meat. It’s mostly found in boar or pig meat. Once this larva enters the intestines, it will start to develop into a mature worm, which will produce more larvae that can eat through muscles and other body tissues. A large infestation of these parasites can cause intestinal pain and diarrhea.
8. Toxoplasma Gondii
This parasite can be found in nearly a third of the world’s population. Its main aim is to be in the guts of a cat, and how it reaches its goal is quite fascinating. It will infect rats and mice that have been exposed to cat feces, and then it will travel to the rodent’s brain and get rid of their natural fear of cats. Therefore, instead of running away, the rodent seeks out a cat and promptly gets eaten. The parasite then ends up in the cat’s gut.