In the subject of biology, we study about worms and germs. You may have heard about Pinworms, threadworms, or seat worms. In biology, the classification is based on scientific names. So, the pinworm scientific name is Enterobius vermicularis. These worms fall under the family Oxyuridae and order Ascaridida. These worms are popular as human worms. Primarily, they are parasites found in the intestines of human beings. You can find them more in children. Other than human beings, these worms are also found in some vertebrates. Here, we shall study about pinworm life cycle and the infections caused by these worms.
Enterobius vermicularis or pinworm is one of the most prevalent nematode infections in the world. The original name of E. vermicularis was Oxyuris vermicularis. Human beings are the natural host for this infection. Children are more prone to such infestations. The eggs of worms pass into the human body through the transmission. Transmissions occur commonly in people who live in crowded environments. It is noteworthy that transmission occurs within families.
In appearance, the worms are tiny, thread-like and whitish. The worm got its name after its typical pin-like tail present on the posterior part of the female worms. One point of differentiation between the pinworm genders is that the female pinworms are physically longer than male pinworms. Female pinworms may measure almost 13 mm, while male pinworms measure up to 5 mm in size. (Ref.Fig.1). According to the name, an infection caused by pinworms is sometimes referred to as Oxyuriasis; otherwise, it is known as enterobiasis.
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Before we move to the lifecycle section, it is essential to know how pinworms enter our system. The eggs of pinworms are ingested through person-to-person transmission. Now, this transmission happens due to the handling of contaminated surfaces such as clothing, linen, curtains, and carpets. It may also occur that airborne eggs find their way through inhalation. Sometimes, self-infection may occur if eggs are transferred to the mouth by fingers that have scratched the perianal area.
It is essential to note that the complete life cycle of pinworm infective stages takes place in the gastrointestinal tract of human beings. The process starts with the ingestion of pinworm eggs. Let us have a look at the different stages in the life cycle of pinworm up to the final infection.
1 – Ingestion Stage
The life cycle within a human body begins for this parasite when eggs are ingested. After ingestion, larvae hatch from the eggs in the small intestine. The adults then migrate to the organ known as the colon. Adults mate in the colon. The males die after mating. This ingestion is through not-so hygienic conditions. School-going children and pre-school children are the most likely to get pinworm infection.
2 – Migration Stage
After the eggs of the pinworm are ingested and the larvae hatch, they travel through the stomach to the large intestines. Along this route, the larvae grow further and reach sexual maturity. Adult female pinworms then move from the intestines to the anal area. Here, the females lay more eggs. It is essential to note that the egg-laying process typically happens in the middle of the night or early in the morning.
3 – Infection Stage
Female pinworms migrate to the anus in the night and deposit eggs in the perianal area. The females die after laying their eggs. The period from ingestion of infective eggs to the deposition of eggs by females takes approximately one month. The larvae develop, and the eggs become an infection in 4 - 6 hours.
Note that an adult pinworm lives for around two months. The entire lifecycle of pinworms exists inside the human body as they are parasites. The eggs are ingested from anywhere and by any source. They develop and reproduce inside the intestines of human beings. Sometimes, newly hatched larvae may migrate back into the anus, and this act is known as retro-infection.
Retro-infection happens with the deposition of eggs on the perianal skin or the rim of the anus. The juvenile pinworms crawl back into the anus and mature into adults. This way, the process repeats itself. In this case, it takes 6 hours for these eggs to grow and become infective.
Q1. What are the Symptoms of Pinworm Infection?
About four weeks after the ingestion, the adult female moves down the gut and exits the body through the anus to lay eggs. Now, this happens at night. The worm then dies once the mission is complete and is thrown out by the natural process. The eggs deposition may cause itching, especially at night. Pinworm infection usually shows no symptoms, but some signs of pinworm infection include the following: night-time itching in the bottom, a reduced appetite, feeling unwell in a mild way, inflammation of the vagina, irritability and behavioural changes. You can see worms and eggs in the faeces and around the anus.
Q2. How to Prevent Another Pinworm Infection?
Your doctor might suggest a test to check for the presence of worms and prescribe medication accordingly. Suggestions to prevent a new pinworm infection include the following measures:
Complete washing of hands and nails, by all family members, with soap and water, after going to the toilet, and before and after preparing food.
Avoid scratching of the bottom and nail-biting.
Keep the fingernails short.
Daily bathing and staying clean.
Wash all sheets, linen, nightwear and sleepwear in hot water to kill pinworm eggs.
Clean the toilet seat regularly with disinfectant.
Taking of medication, by all family members, symptomatic or not.