How Do Parasites Get Into Our Bodies?
Food parasites are organisms that obtain protection and nourishment from other living organisms or hosts. When consumed in food, they can cause illness in humans. Parasites, such as Giardia, Trichinella, and Toxoplasma, can be indirectly or directly transferred to humans and animals via the consumption of contaminated drinking water and food. Parasites can also be transferred to humans and animals through biting insects that transfer parasites or disease from one organism to another.Common Symptoms of Food Parasites
The health effects of food parasite infections vary significantly depending on the type of parasite. Symptoms range from debilitating illness to mild afflictions, and in some cases, can even cause death. Some of the most common symptoms of food parasites include:
Common Causes of Food Parasites
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss of approximately 10 pounds or more over a two-month period
- Long-term itching around the anus for, especially if there is no rash
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Chronic fatigue
- Changes in the frequency and appearance of bowel movements, including excessive diarrhea or loose stool during a two week period
- High fever
- Muscle pain and tenderness
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Light sensitivity and pink eye
One common cause of food parasites is consuming raw or under-cooked meat from an infected host, also known as trichinosis infection. Trichinosis is brought on by the trichinella species, which includes intestinal worms, roundworms, and parasitic nematodes. These parasites enter the body when meats containing trichinella cysts are consumed. After being exposed to pepsin and gastric acid, the larvae are released from the cysts and invade the small intestine, where they will develop into full grown worms, which varies anywhere from 1.2 mm - 2.2 mm in length.
After about one week, the female releases larvae that attach to striated muscles, where they form a cyst. These cysts can remain active for many years. Under-cooked or raw pork products, such as sausage, has been the meat most commonly associated with causing the trichinosis parasite infection. This food-borne infection is not contagious from human to human; however, carnivore and omnivore animals can become infected, and if eaten, infect other species.
Another common cause of food parasites is accidentally ingesting pinworm eggs, also known as dientamoeba fragilis infection, or D. fragilis. Pinworm eggs can be accidentally ingested by consuming water or food contaminated with pinworm eggs or by touching someone's stool-contaminated with the infection, such as after using the toilet or changing a baby diaper, and then preparing food or bringing your hands to your mouth. Those at greater risk of developing D. fragilis infection include those with weak immune systems
and those who travel to environments with poor sanitary conditions.
Another way food parasites enter your body is by ingesting foods with bug feces. T.cruzi, which causes Chagas Disease, is a protozoan parasite that is transmitted through contact with "kissing bugs" feces. Normally, these beetles feed on blood from human hosts, which defecate on the skin as they feed and is then penetrated through the skin via scratching the bite wound. However, in recent years, the infection has been transmitted through contaminated foods, such as sugar cane juices and fruit. Chagas disease is characterized by the slow onset of parasitic infection of various organs and cells in the body, including the heart, and produces little or no symptoms at all. Over time, the disease becomes more serious and can lead to cardiac and intestinal problems, and in some cases, even death.