Intestinal parasite

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Intestinal parasites are parasites that populate the gastro-intestinal tract. In humans, they are often spread by poor hygiene related to feces, contact with animals, or poorly cooked food containing parasites.

The major groups of parasites include protozoans (organisms having only one cell) and parasitic worms (helminths). Of these, protozoans, including cryptosporidium, microsporidia, and isospora, are most common in HIV-infected persons. Each of these parasites can infect the digestive tract, and sometimes two or more can cause infection at the same time.

Infection

Parasites can get into the intestine through the mouth from uncooked or unwashed food, contaminated water, or hands, or by skin contact with larva infected soil. People can also become infected with intestinal parasites if they have mouth contact with the genital or rectal area of a sexual partner who is infected (e.g. oral sex or anal-oral contact). When the organisms are swallowed, they move into the intestine, where they can reproduce and cause disease.

Symptoms

In some people, intestinal parasites do not cause any symptoms, or the symptoms may come and go. Common signs and complaints include coughing, cramping abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. In more serious infections, diminished sex drive, skin-itching, fever, nausea, vomiting, or bloody stools may occur. Some parasites also cause low red blood count (anemia), and some travel from the lungs to the intestine, or from the intestine to the lungs and other parts of the body. Many other conditions can result in these symptoms, so laboratory tests are necessary to determine their cause.

In children, irritability and restlessness are commonly reported by parents.



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