Heartworms (Dirofilariasis) In Humans And Animals: Types, Distribution And Routes Of Infection

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Heartworms (Dirofilariasis) In Humans And Animals: Types, Distribution And Routes Of Infection
Heartworms (Dirofilariasis) In Humans And Animals: Types, Distribution And Routes Of Infection

Video: Heartworms (Dirofilariasis) In Humans And Animals: Types, Distribution And Routes Of Infection

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Video: Why Don't Humans Get Heartworm? (Spoiler: We Do) 2023, February
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  • Representatives
  • Distribution and routes of infection
  • Symptoms
  • Treatment and prevention
  • You can defeat parasites!

In the minds of most people, helminths (that is, worms, which are usually called worms) live in the intestines, sometimes in the liver and bile ducts.

But there are also such worms as dirofilaria - representatives of roundworms (trematodes) that live in humans in its most important organ - the heart. They are called that - heartworms.

What to do in such a situation? To get started, we recommend reading this article. This article details the methods of dealing with parasites. We also recommend contacting a specialist. Read the article >>>

Representatives

Characteristically, Dirofilariasis is translated from Latin as "evil thread", and in the photo they really resemble a thread. Their larvae are so small (about 0.32 mm) that they are sometimes called invisible trematodes, although an adult can be up to 30 cm long.

Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens
Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens
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Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens

These helminths, pathogens of dirofilariasis, are considered animal parasites: they are most often found in cats, dogs and other carnivorous mammals. Animal disease can be very severe and fatal, leading to cardiac arrest.

Until recently, such parasites were extremely rarely found in humans, but this is due not so much to the low prevalence of the disease, as to the lack of timely diagnosis and the similarity with the symptoms characteristic of other diseases.

Distribution and routes of infection

The main hosts of parasites are animals, including pets, but infection with these parasites does not occur directly, from pets, but through mosquitoes of the Culicidae family, which become carriers of the disease. Less often, ticks, chains, etc. act in this role.

Life cycle
Life cycle
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Life cycle of a parasite

Therefore, it is quite natural that heartworm damage is most often recorded in warm regions where a suitable habitat for mosquitoes: in the USA (mainly in the southern states), Latin America, in the Middle East, in South Asia, Australia, and in Europe also mainly in south.

The mosquito becomes a carrier of the disease after it bites the animal that is the host of the parasite. At the same time, in spite of its miniature size, the larvae of the heartworm penetrate into the body of the mosquito, the dimensions of which are generally microscopic, and continue their development in it, until, with a human bite, they pass into the subcutaneous tissue of the new host.

Here, the larva begins to actively develop and during the incubation period, which is usually 2-3 months, turns into an adult worm.

Symptoms

Take a heart parasite test

Symptoms Answer Redness and swelling of the skin and toxic-allergic reactions Yes Not Feeling of movement under the skin Yes Not Bloating Yes Not Nausea and vomiting Yes Not Constipation Yes Not Loss of appetite Yes Not Increased fatigue, apathy Yes Not Tachycardia Yes Not Arrhythmia with threadlike pulse Yes Not Chest pain, high fever Yes Not

The symptoms of infection do not have a pronounced character, which would immediately allow us to determine what it is and what kind of disease we are dealing with.

With the penetration of the parasite under the skin, a formation resembling a tumor occurs at this place, which is accompanied by a sensation of itching, burning and pain, as well as redness and swelling of the skin and toxic-allergic reactions.

Dirofilariasis in humans
Dirofilariasis in humans
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Exit worms out

Perhaps the only specific sign is the sensation of movement under the skin, and this is not just a sensation - heartworms are indeed able to move under the skin and penetrate into the deep layers of the epidermis; in a couple of days they are able to move up to 30 cm.

Parasites are spread by the bloodstream throughout the human body and can enter almost any internal organs - the liver, lungs, etc., while cysts are formed, and in some areas fibrous tissue degeneration occurs. Therefore, a diagnostic error often occurs when the process is considered the development of a tumor.

Dirofilariasis
Dirofilariasis
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This is due to the release of toxins during the life of worms. If they are localized in the liver, then characteristic symptoms of pancreatitis, cholecystitis, colitis appear; if in the lungs, then shortness of breath and a feeling of suffocation up to bronchial asthma.

When the helminths reach the heart, an acute period of helminthic invasion begins, which is characterized by the following symptoms: tachycardia, arrhythmia with a threadlike pulse, nausea, chest pains, high fever.

Since parasites living in the heart are considered a rather rare disease, diagnosis, and therefore a competent choice of medical tactics, are difficult, and the patient is often treated precisely for cardio diseases.

Treatment and prevention

Before determining how to treat, you need to find out which disease should be treated. According to experts, radiography and ultrasound can diagnose the presence of worms in the heart with maximum accuracy.

When the helminth has reached the heart, treatment with conventional anthelmintic agents is practically useless, especially since we are talking about such extremely toxic drugs as Azinox, Nemozol, Bithionol, Chloxil, Perchlorethylene, etc., when the medicine itself can cause very serious consequences for the body.

Before carrying out the operation, the patient is given a special drug that has a paralyzing effect on helminths in order to avoid the worm's "relocation" to other organs.

Surgery
Surgery
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Surgery to remove worms from the heart

As an accompanying drug therapy, antihistamines and sedatives are used, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and, if necessary, glucocorticosteroids.

Since mosquitoes are carriers of heartworm larvae, their bites should be avoided in every possible way, repellents should be actively used, and, if possible, not at all visit endemic regions.

Another preventive measure is deworming pets in the spring and summer.

When the above symptoms appear, you should immediately consult a doctor and do an x-ray and ultrasound of the heart - only these diagnostic methods can confirm or deny the presence of helminths in the human body.

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