Trichuriasis, also called Trichocephaliasis, is one of the neglected tropical diseases which is transmitted through the faeco-oral route. It is the third most common soil-transmitted helminth infection worldwide.
Trichuriasis is caused by a parasitic helminth called Trichuris trichiura (or Trichocephalus trichiuris or whipworm) whose eggs are found in the soil. 604 – 795 million people are infected globally, with children being the most heavily infected.
The eggs are transmitted through the faeces of infected humans into the soil. The eggs sometimes contaminate vegetables and fruits which are then consumed by humans when the vegetables and fruits are not properly washed, peeled or cooked. Also, the hands can be contaminated through farming, handling of contaminated fomites, children playing with the soil and the unwashed hands can also transmit Trichuris eggs into the mouth.
Children, people living in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene, and people who use unsafe water are at greater risk of trichuriasis. Poor education, unsatisfactory health care and high-risk occupations (mining, farming, tea picking) also increase the incidence of trichuriasis.
Light infections may be asymptomatic. Meanwhile, heavy infections show symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, dysentery, anorexia, weight loss and anaemia. If left untreated, trichuriasis can lead to a severe disease called, Trichuris Dysentery Syndrome (TDS) which presents with chronic dysentery, poor growth, anaemia and rectal prolapse.
Trichuriasis is diagnosed by Stool Microscopy (to identify the presence of Trichuris trichiura eggs in the stool), Complete Blood Count (to detect anaemia) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). With an effective sewage disposal system, hygienic food preparation, safe water source and proper hygiene, trichuriasis can be prevented.
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