Hookworm infestation is a parasitic disease that is common in the tropics and subtropics. The hookworm is an intestinal parasite in humans and the two main species infecting humans are Anclostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. If a person comes in contact with moist soil in which the larvae of the hookworm are thriving, there is a possibility that the person may get a hookworm infestation. The larvae enter the body through the skin. They travel through the blood and reach the intestine where they can grow up to ½ inch in length. The fully grown larvae have hook-like teeth and they feed themselves by sucking blood from the wall of the intestine. While the male hookworms continue to damage the body, the females lay eggs, and these eggs go out of the body through the faeces and develop into larvae in the soil.
Majority of the hookworm infestation cases are reported from the tropical and sub-tropical climates. Walking barefoot in soil contaminated with faeces (the source of hookworm eggs and larvae) is the most common method of exposure. Lack of sanitation is one of major reasons why worm infestations happen in humans.
Itchy rash on the skin from where the larvae has entered the body is the initial symptom of the infestation. Once the larvae enter the bloodstream and reach the lungs, they may causes dry cough and mild fever. And when they reach the intestine and develop into hookworms, they cause gastrointestinal discomfort. If not treated in time, the infection may result in blood in the stools, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. The presence of a large number of hookworms in the body may lead to iron deficiency anaemia, and a severe anaemia may cause chronic heart failure.
To confirm whether the patient is suffering from hookworm infestation or not a faeces sample is examined. If the infestation is confirmed, the patient is given anthelmintic drugs so that the worms get killed. Iron supplements are also given, if one has developed anaemia due to this infection. In rare cases where anaemia has reached a serious level, the doctor may prescribe blood transfusion.
Improving sanitation and personal hygiene may help in preventing the spread of such infections. For better sanitation, one should use only toilets and latrines to defecate. Human faeces or raw sewage should not be used as a fertilizer in agriculture. Moreover, one should not walk barefoot on the moist soil; wearing waterproof shoes in the areas where the ground is wet can prevent hookworm infestation.