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Hookworm Disease

Overview :

Two types of hookworm are responsible for hookworm disease in humans. Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale have similar life cycles and similar methods of causing illness. The adult worm of both Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale is about 10 mm long, pinkish-white in color, and curved into an S-shape or double hook.

Both types of hookworm have similar life cycles. The females produce about 10,000-20,000 eggs per day. These eggs are passed out of the host's body in feces. The eggs enter the soil, where they incubate. After about 48 hours, the immature larval form hatches out of the eggs. These larvae take about six weeks to develop into the mature larval form that is capable of causing human infection. If exposed to human skin at this point (usually bare feet walking in the dirt or bare hands digging in the dirt), the larvae will bore through the skin and ride through the lymph circulation to the right side of the heart. The larvae are then pumped into the lungs. There they bore into the tiny air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Their presence within the lungs usually causes enough irritation to produce coughing. The larvae are coughed up into the throat and mouth, and are then swallowed and passed into the small intestine. It is within the intestine that they develop into the adult worm, producing illness in their human host.

Ancylostoma duodenale is found primarily in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and throughout Asia. Necator americanus is common in tropical areas including Asia, parts of the Americas, and throughout Africa. Research suggests that at least 25% of all people in the world have hookworm disease. In the United States, 700,000 people are believed to be infected with hookworms at any given time.

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