Hookworm infection is caused by an intestinal roundworm, either Ancylostoma duodenale or Necator americanus. About one fourth of the worlds population is infected with hookworms. Infection is most common in warm, moist places where sanitation is poor.

Ancylostoma duodenale is found in the Mediterranean area, India, China, and Japan; Necator americanus is found in the tropical areas of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. These hookworms are now rarely transmitted in the southern part of the United States .In the life cycle of either hookworm, eggs are discharged in stool and hatched in the soil after incubating for 1 to 2 days.

In a few days, larvae are released and live in the soil. A person can become infected by walking barefooted through a field contaminated by human feces because the larvae can penetrate the skin. The larvae reach the lungs through the lymphatic vessels and bloodstream. Then they climb the respiratory tract and are swallowed. About a week after penetrating the skin, they reach the intestine. The larvae attach themselves by their mouths to the lining of the upper small intestine and suck blood.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

An itchy, flat, raised rash (ground itch) may develop where the larvae penetrated the skin. A fever, coughing, and wheezing may be caused by the migration of the larvae through the lungs. Adult worms often cause pain in the upper abdomen. Iron deficiency anemia and low levels of protein in the blood can result from intestinal bleeding. In children, slow growth, heart failure, and widespread tissue swelling may result from prolonged, severe blood loss. If the infection produces symptoms, the eggs usually are visible in a sample of stool.

If the stool isnt examined for several hours, the eggs may hatch and release larvae.


A doctors first priority is to correct the anemia, which usually improves with oral iron supplements but may require iron injections. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be needed. When the persons condition is stable, an oral drug [such as pyrantel pamoate or mebendazole} is taken for 1 to 3 days to kill the hookworm. These drugs cant be taken by pregnant women.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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