Hookworm, Ancylostoma duodenale, and Necator americanus.
Juveniles in the soil can burrow into human skin. The eggs are usually eaten along with food. However, it appears that hookworm infections in humans are not always totally bad news! They have been shown to lessen the allergic effects of pollen in hay fever sufferers (The Lancet, vol 308, p686), and in Ethiopia ascaris infections reduced the severity of asthma. (The Lancet, vol 358, p 1493) . Nector americanus females are up to 11 mm long, and males 9 mm long. Heavy infections can result in anemia.
Pinworm, Enterobius vermicularis. The female pinworm, which is up to 12 mm long, creeps out of the human anus and lays her eggs around the margin of the anus at night. This action causes itching and scratching by the human. The eggs are caught under the fingernails, and easily spread to other humans or back to the original host. Eggs can also be inhaled with dust or licked off fingers which have touched dusty surfaces. The most common worm parasite in the modern affluent areas of the world. 30% of US children are estimated to be infected, however infection causes little harm in a healthy human. In Taiwan studies have shown that those infected with pinworm are less likely than uninfected members of the general population to have hay fever (Clinical Experimental Allergy, vol 32, p1029).
Trichina worm, Trichinella spiralis. Infection occurs when eating infected meat, and can result in the potentially lethal trichinosis. Just over 2% of the U. S. population is infected.
Whipworm, Trichuris thrichiura.
Infection occurs when eating contaminated food, or through unhygienic habits. This parasite tends to be found in areas where Ascaris sp. is also common. Adults live in the intestine,
but the larva burrow through the gut wall into the muscles causing cysts which
can cause great pain and even death.
Filarial worms, Wuchereria bancrofti and Brugia malayi etc.
Infection comes from infected female mosquitoes taking a blood meal. Repeated and long exposure can lead to elephantiasis. Another filarial worm carried by the blackfly causes onchocerciasis, river blindness.
Loa-loa, Onchocerca volvulus, the African eye worm
This nematode lives in the subcutaneous tissues of man. The worm migrates and if it passes across the cornea of the eye it can be seen - hence its common name. Some believe that this is origin of lovers gaze into each other's eyes as an infected partner would not make a good mate. Infection can lead to blindness. It is transmitted by black flies (Simulinum), and deer flies (Tabanidae).
Guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis
Occurs mainly in Asia and Africa. In humans infection occurs from drinking water containing Cyclops which have been infected by the worm. The worm larvae in the cyclops hatch out and penetrate the human intestine. Eggs are passed out of the human when a gravid female migrates to the skin and causes an ulcer. When this ulcer comes into contact with water the free-swimming larvae are released. The larvae swim until they either die or are eaten by a cyclops.
A mature female is 1 mm in diameter but can reach 120 cm in length.
In the Old Testament it is referred to as the "fiery serpent".