Horse Hair In Water: What Are Hair Worms

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Horse Hair In Water: What Are Hair Worms
Horse Hair In Water: What Are Hair Worms

Video: Horse Hair In Water: What Are Hair Worms

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Video: Horsehair Worm facts: not for the squeamish | Animal Fact Files 2023, February
  • 1 What is horse hair parasite?

    • 1.1 Structure
    • 1.2 Life cycle
  • 2 Danger of horsehair to humans
  • 3 Ways of infection
  • 4 Symptoms of infection

Among all parasitic diseases, the ailment that causes the helminth called horsehair has the most myths. For example, it is believed that if a person bathes in a pond, then this helminth can penetrate his body and will devour internal organs until it gets to the heart. In our article, we will not only describe the features of the parasite, but also list how horse hair is dangerous for humans.

What is horsehair parasite?

horsehair parasite
horsehair parasite

First you need to figure out what horsehair is. This is a parasite, which is also called hairy worm, gordiacea and nematomorph. It belongs to the class of round helminths. In length, the worm can reach 0.5-1 m, however, science knows cases when the hairy worm reached a length of two meters. The diameter of this helminth is only 0.3 cm. That is why the parasite was called horse hair - it is very long and thin, which makes it different from other roundworms parasitizing in humans.

The horsehair is very similar in its anatomical features and body shape to nematodes:

  1. It has a small space between the intestines and the lining of the body;
  2. The parasite's body contains only longitudinal muscle fibers;
  3. Its cuticular upper layer is the same as that of nematodes;
  4. Equine hair, like nematodes, differs from other worms in that it has no body division into segments;
  5. Its nervous system and the structure of the organs of the reproductive system are the same as in representatives of nematodes.

Horsehair is a parasite that has dark brown (almost black) pigmentation. Individuals of light whitish color can be found much less often. Hairworms are heterosexual: females are slightly longer than males and have a twisted spiral or curved end of the body.

We figured out what the parasite looks like, but it is no less interesting how it moves. Usually it moves along the bottom, very smoothly and slowly wriggling and twisting into a ball. That is why another name for it is living hair.

You are more likely to encounter horsehair during its breeding season as the parasites curl up in large balls. Helminths in large numbers can twine around underwater vegetation, stones and various objects.

special structure of the parasite
special structure of the parasite

Horsehair is a worm, of which about 320 species have been identified in nature. However, according to scientists, there are more than two thousand of them. All these worms can be divided into two classes:

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  1. Gordioidea are freshwater worms. Their larvae live in the bodies of millipedes, spiders and other insects.
  2. Nectonematoida are plankton-type marine parasites. Both larvae and worms live and develop in the organisms of marine crustaceans.


Horsehair has its own special structure. They have a mouth opening at one end, and a cloaca at the posterior end. The body of the helminth is covered with a dense cuticular layer consisting of epithelial secretions. A little deeper under the coating is a skin-muscular formation. The lumen between muscle fibers and the intestine is filled with parenchyma from connective tissues and cells.

Equestrian hair is a parasite whose intestines look like the thinnest tube. It consists of three types of intestines. This worm completely lacks the respiratory and excretory systems, as well as the organs of hematopoiesis. Its nervous system is located in the epithelial layer and consists of the abdominal trunk and the ring.

Since the hair worm is a parasite that is divided into individuals of different sexes, males and females differ in the structure of the organs of the reproductive system. Females have excretory ducts, which include an oviduct and a uterus, and in the body of males there are two vas deferens.

Life cycle

the worm begins to dwell in the water
the worm begins to dwell in the water

The horsehair worm, being a parasite, chooses various insects and crustaceans as a host. The path of development of the parasite is as follows:

  1. First, the larva tries to penetrate into the body of a benthic inhabitant, for example, a bloodworm or the larva of some insect. After a larger insect has eaten an inhabitant infected with hairworm larvae, the parasite continues to develop in its body.
  2. For a month, the larva can remain in the insect until it reaches the size of a sexually mature individual.
  3. After that, she gnaws at the shell of his body and gets out. Naturally, the insect dies in this case.
  4. Now the worm begins to dwell in the water and is constantly moving. Since the life cycle of a sexually mature individual lasts less than a month, during this time it must have time to mate and lay eggs. One clutch of a female can contain up to 10 million eggs.

The danger of horsehair to humans

is horse hair dangerous for humans
is horse hair dangerous for humans

Now let's talk about whether horse hair is dangerous for humans. Since adult hairworms lack organs for digesting food, they do not need to eat anything and cannot gnaw through human skin, as many myths about these parasites claim.

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By itself, an adult worm can inhabit any body of stagnant water. It is not difficult to spot him sliding along the bottom or floating on the surface. But since he does not need a host's body for his existence, he does not seek to penetrate a person or an animal.

However, even if accidentally swallowed, it will not be dangerous, since it cannot exist in the human body for a long time. And for such a short period of stay in the human body, the parasite simply cannot do serious harm.

Infection routes

swallowing water while swimming
swallowing water while swimming

Despite the fact that neither larvae nor adults live in the human body, this parasite can enter it in the following ways:

  • when swallowing water while swimming in a pond;
  • when eating raw fish, which has a parasite inside.

In any case, the worm will not be able to move in the human body and will quickly die in the digestive system or come out in a natural way (with feces).

Infection symptoms

The only disease that this parasite can provoke if it accidentally gets into the human body is an allergic reaction. Sometimes, after swallowing a worm, the human body tries to reject it, which is manifested by the following syndrome:

  • sometimes mild nausea may appear;
  • if a person feels that he has swallowed something wrong, then vomiting may occur as a psychological defense reaction;
  • an unpleasant odor may come from the mouth;
  • in rare cases, mild digestive disorders are observed - flatulence, rumbling and diarrhea.

If the worm dies inside the digestive system, then it will begin to be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, which will lead to an allergic reaction due to poisoning with helminth toxins. However, this is very rare.


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