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Whipworm infection

Definition

Whipworm infection is an infection of the large intestine with a type of roundworm.

Alternative Names

Trichuriasis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Whipworm infection is caused by the roundworm, Trichocephalus trichiura. It is a common infection that mainly affects children.

Children may become infected if they swallow soil contaminated with whipworm eggs. When the eggs hatch inside the body, the whipworm sticks inside the wall of the large intestine.

Whipworm is found throughout the world, especially in countries with warm, humid climates. Some outbreaks have been traced to contaminated vegetables (believed to be due to soil contamination).

Symptoms

Symptoms range from mild to severe. Sometimes, there are no symptoms. A severe infection may cause:

Signs and tests

A stool ova and parasites exam reveals the presence of whipworm eggs.

Treatment

Mebendazole taken by mouth for 3 days is commonly prescribed when the infection causes symptoms. Albendazole is used as an alternative therapy.

Expectations (prognosis)

Full recovery is expected with treatment.

Calling your health care provider

Seek medical attention if you or your child develop bloody diarrhea. In addition to whipworm, there are many other infections and illnesses that can cause similar symptoms.

Prevention

Improved facilities for feces disposal have decreased the incidence of whipworm.

Always wash your hands before handling food. Thoroughly washing food may also help prevent this condition.

References

Maguire JH. Intestinal nematodes (roundworms). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 287.


Review Date: 9/15/2010
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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