|Anthelmintics are medications used to eradicate parasitic worms (helminths) from the human body. Helminth infections are one of the most common infections, affecting a large proportion of the world’s population, mainly in tropical regions. In developing countries, they pose a large threat to public health and leading to malnutrition, anemia, eosinophilia (a higher than normal level of white blood cells), and pneumonia. The worms that cause infection in man generally include the roundworms, the tapeworms, and the flukes. 1. The roundworms:|
|Roundworms are worms that can infest the human digestive tract, specifically the small intestine. They are parasites and use the human body to stay alive, feed, and reproduce. They live in the human small intestine and their eggs are passed out with stools. Infections are transmitted through ingestion of food or water contaminated with their eggs. Contaminated sources such as dirty hands, flies, and other insects can also be the transmission media. Symptoms commonly seen with roundworm infections are nausea, abdominal pain, intermittent diarrhea, and perianal itching.|
In most people, roundworm infections do not cause any noticeable symptoms. People most commonly see their doctor because they have seen a worm in their stools.
|2. The tapeworms:|
|Tapeworm infection is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with their eggs or larvae (tiny young worms). If you ingest tapeworm larvae, they develop into adult tapeworms in your intestines (intestinal infection). Intestinal tapeworm infections are usually mild, the usual symptoms are nausea and weakness.|
Some people with tapeworm infections do not need treatment, for the tapeworm exit the body on its own. You may not know you have a tapeworm infection until you see segments of the worm in your stools.
|3. The flukes:|
|There are 4 categories of fluke infections that are pathogenic in man: the infections of the blood, the intestines, the liver, and the lung. You usually become infected with fluke worms by swimming or washing in freshwater that contains fluke worms. Symptoms are usually only seen in heavy infections and commonly include fever, pain, and eosinophilia.|
|Anthelmintics All the registered anthelmintics in Hong Kong are available in oral dosage forms such as tablets, chewable tablets, and powders. If you have any symptoms and suspect to be infected with worms, you are advised to seek a doctor’s opinion before using any medications. Commonly used ones are mebendazole and its analogs flubendazole, piperazine, praziquantel, and pyrantel. Others such as levamisole and pyrvinium have previously been used but are not common anymore.|
|Mebendazole, flubendazole, piperazine, and pyrantel are indicated for roundworm infections. Mebendazole and flubendazole work by stopping the roundworms from using glucose and without it, the cells of the roundworms lose their energy supply and quickly die. Whereas, piperazine and pyrantel work by paralyzing the worms and causing the worms to “lose their grip” on the intestinal wall and be passed out of the system by natural process.|
Praziquantel is indicated for both tapeworm infections and fluke infections. It works by causing severe spasms and paralysis of the worms’ muscles.
|If you are infected, take the medicines as directed. Do not take more of it and do not take it more often than your doctor instructed. To help clear up your infection, complete the full course of treatment as directed.In order to prevent recurrence of infections: – Avoid scratching the area around the buttocks.|
|– Wash hands and fingernails with soap often during the day, especially before eating and after using the toilet.|
– Wearing tight underpants both day and night. Change them daily.
– Clean the bedroom floor by vacuuming or damp mopping for several days after treatment. Avoid dry sweeping
that may stir up dust.
– Keep the toilet seat clean.
– Wash (not shake) all bedding and pajamas after treatment. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat such as pork, beef, and fish. When traveling, use bottled water and avoid raw vegetables unless you can peel and wash them yourself.