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Whipworm infection

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

Causes

Whipworm infection is caused by the roundworm Trichuris 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

Most people who have whipworm infections don't have symptoms. Symptoms mainly occur in children, and range from mild to severe. A severe infection may cause:

Exams and Tests

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

Treatment

The drug albendazole is commonly prescribed when the infection causes symptoms. A different anti-worm medicine may also be prescribed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Full recovery is expected with treatment.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Prevention

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

Always wash your hands before handling food. Teach your children to wash their hands, too. Thoroughly washing food may also help prevent this condition.

Alternative Names

Intestinal parasite - whipworm; Trichuriasis; Round worm - trichuriasis

References

Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN. Intestinal nematodes. In: Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN, eds. Human Parasitology. 4th ed. Waltham, MA: Elsevier Academic Press; 2012:chap 16.

Dent AE, Kazura JW. Trichuriasis (Trichuris trichiura). In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 293.

Review Date 11/14/2016

Updated 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, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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