An extraordinary variety of viruses, bacteria, parasites, and organisms stand ready to attack us and feed
off our bodies' cells. Using microscopes of varying power, photographers
show us a teeming microbial world that we could barely imagine without their help.
The approximate sizes of microbes can be approximated by using the following rule of thumb:
VIRUSES are the smallest of all infectious agents, averaging about 100 nanometers
(100 billionths of a meter) in length. They have so few genes and proteins of their own that in order
to reproduce they need to commandeer the machinery of the cells they invade.
BACTERIA vary widely in size and shape, but tend to be at least 10 times larger
than viruses, or at least 1 micrometer (1 millionth of a meter) long. They are single-cell
organisms that reproduce independently.
SINGLE-CELL ORGANISMS tend to be at least 10 times larger than bacteria, or
about .01 millimeter long.
MULTI CELLULAR ORGANISMS are so large they can usually be seen with the naked eye.
Tapeworms, for instance, can reach a length of 6 meters (20 feet).
Food and water are the most common sources of parasite and invading organism transmission.
Since most of us eat three times a day and drink water frequently throughout the day,
our exposure to these sources is constant. Tap water has been found to be contaminated with harmful organisms. Both plant and animal foods carry parasites,
and cleaning and cooking methods often do not often destroy them before ingestion. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) cites food as the catalyst behind 80 percent
of the pathogenic outbreaks in the U.S. Most are linked to restaurants and delis where less than sanitary conditions exist -- from food preparation and storage
to the utensils and servers' hands.
Animals, just like humans, can become infected with parasites and unhealthy organisms.
Internally, contaminated water and food can spread the problem to our pets. Externally,
animals become infected by organisms on their bodies, especially on their fur, because of exposure to infected animal wastes. Forgetting to wash your hands
even one time after handling or cleaning up after your animal can transmit the parasite to you. Pets are a wonderful part of our lives. They provide comfort,
companionship, protection, amusement, and unconditional love for their owners. Yet, pets, like humans, are often victims of serious infections that can
unintentionally be passed on to their owners. In fact, there is a whole set of diseases classified as 'zoonoses' (animal-transmitted diseases) in parasitology textbooks.
Animals are major carriers of harmful organisms, and most physicians, let alone the general public, are seemingly unaware of this fact. Experts have projected that of the
110 million pet dogs and cats in this country, over half may be infected with at least one or more different kinds of harmful organisms. Considering these numbers,
the potential for transmission of parasitical invading organism infection from animals to humans is extremely high. Making a parasite cleanse an essential part of an effective health maintenance program for both people and animals alike.
The CDC estimates that the number of parasites present in the United States alone number in the thousands.
These harmful organisms are biochemically complex creatures in their life histories, development, reproductive cycles, nutritional requirements, and manifestation.
They are categorized according to structure, shape, function, and reproductive ability. These include microscopic organisms (protozoa);
roundworms, pinworms, whipworms, and hookworms (nematoda); tapeworms (cestoda); and flukes (trematoda).
Making up approximately 70 percent of all invading organisms, protozoa are invisible to the naked eye. They are one-celled microscopic organisms, but don't let their
size fool you. Certain protoans, through their intensely rapid reproductive ability, can take over the intestinal tract of their host; and from there go on
to other organs and tissues. Some feed on red blood cells. Some protozoa produce cysts - closed sacs in which they may be safely transported through food
and water from one person to another. In the cyst state, protozoans are safe from destruction by human digestive juices. These one-celled 'vampires'
can actually destroy the tissues of their hosts. According to experts, an estimated 7 million people across the U.S. have some form of protozoa living inside of them.
Common protozoa include: Endolimax nana, Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidum parvum, Blastocystis hominis,
Trichomonas vaginalis, Toxoplasma gondii, Cyclospora cayetanensis, Cryptosporidium muris, Pneumocystis carinii,
Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum, Leishmania donovani,
Leishmania tropica, and Leishmania braziliensis.
While the protozoans are only single-celled, nematode creatures are multi cellular. The adult worms multiply by producing eggs called ova or larvae. The eggs usually
become infectious in soil or in an intermediate host before humans are infected. It is interesting to note that unless the worm infection is heavy, many individuals
do not show signs of infestation. While it may be unpleasant to consider, it is true that the human host can coexist quite comfortably with a few worms, unless they
reproduce in great numbers and create organ obstruction. Experts claim that 'some type of worm is
already in the intestines of over 75 percent of the world's population'. This is a frightening statement.
Common nematode include: Roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), Hookworm (Necator Americanus, Ancylostoma duodenal), Pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis),
Roundworm (Toxocara canis, Toxocara cati), Heart worm (Dirofilaria immitis), Strongyloides (Stronglyoides stercoralis), Trichinella (Trichinella spiralis),
Filaria (Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, Onchocerca volvulus, Loa loa, Mansonella streptocerca, Mansonella perstans, Mansonella ozzardi), and Anisakine larvae.
Among the oldest known parasites, tapeworms are considered humanity's largest intestinal inhabitant. They each have a scolex (head) that attaches to the intestinal wall.
As long as the head remains attached to the intestinal mucosa, a new worm can grow from it. Tapeworms do not contain digestive tracts but get their nourishment by
absorbing partially digested substances from the host. They are whitish in color, flat, and ribbon-like, with a covering that is a transparent skin-like layer.
Common cestoda include: Beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata), Pork tapeworm (Taenia solium), Fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum), and Dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum).
Trematode are leaf-shaped flatworms also known as flukes. They are parasitic during nearly all of their life-cycle forms. The cycle begins when larvae are released into
freshwater by infected snails. The free-swimming larvae can then directly penetrate the skin of the human host or are ingested after encysting in or on various edible, vegetation, fish, or crustaceans.
Common trematode include: Intestinal fluke (Fasciolopsis buski), Blood fluke (Schistosoma japonicum, Schistosoma mansoni) Schistosoma haematobium), Liver fluke (Clonorchis sinensis),
Oriental lung fluke (Paragonimus westermani), and Sheep liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica).
Doctors remove tapeworm from man's eye. (ABC News)
Parasite Video: 2 Minutes
Brain tumor was actually a worm in the brain. (Fox News)
Parasite Video: 30 Seconds
Pinworms found during Colonoscopy
Parasite Video: 30 Seconds
Intestinal bowel & stomach parasitic infestation.
Parasite Video: 1 Minute
Live tapeworm surgically removed from intestinal tract.
Parasite Video: 2 Minutes
A large worm lives deep inside a human host.
Parasite Video: 3 Minutes
A shocking video of parasitical colony living in man's face.
Common Parasite Infections:
Pinworm Parasites (Enterobius vermmicularis)
The most common of all the worms in the United States, the pinworm is most prevalent in children. Transmission occurs through contaminated
food, water, and hust dust - as well as human-to-human contact. The adult female pinworm moves outside the anus to lay eggs. Children can easily transmit
the worms to the entire family through the bathtub, toilet seat, and bedclothes.
Perianal itching is the most classic pinworm symptom. But these little quarter-inch mobile worms
that resemble threads have been connected to an enormous range of neurological and behavioral symptoms. In a ten-year study of over 2000 cases
of children with pinworms, it was documented seemingly unrelated symptoms which had previously not been associated with this parasitic infection.
Roundworm Parasites (Ascaris lumbricoides)
Another most common intestinal parasite in the world is the large roundworm known as Ascaris lumbricoides. Approximately 1 billion people are
infected with ascaris. The worm resembles the common earthworm in appearance and is spread directly to humans from soil or contaminated food.
Once the worms develop in the human system, they can pass through the liver and lungs, where they
create severe tissue irritation and allergic reactions. Adult worms can travel through the body and end up almost anywhere, including the liver, heart and lungs. They can also create
intestinal obstruction when present in large enough numbers. Symptoms can include nervousness, colic, poor appetite, fatigue, allergic reactions,
coughing, wheezing, and a number of other reactions. Food cravings and malnutrition in children is characteristic of heavy ascaris infections
because the worms compete with the human host for food. Ascaris inhibits absorption of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat-soluable vitamins.
Hookworm Parasites (Necator americanus, Ancylostoma duodenal)
Hookworm larvae are found in warm, moist soil. They can enter the body by directly penetrating the skin. Hookworms travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, into
the alveoli, and up the trachea to the throat - where they are swallowed and end up in their desired habitat, the small intestines. When the larvae pass
through the lungs, bronchitis may sometimes develop. The teeth-like hooks of the larvae attach to the intestinal mucosa and rob the body of large
amounts of blood. Found worldwide, hookworms are very prevelant in a wide variety of geographical locations and toplogies.
Common symptoms may include itchiness, nausea, dizziness, pneumonitis, anorexia, weight-loss, weight-gain, and anemia.
A single worms can live up to 15 years in the human body.
Trichinella Parasites (Trichinella spiralis)
Just about any symptom known to man can be caused by the various stages of trichinosis infection, which can masquerade as at least fifty more
familiar diseases ranging from flu to generalized and specific aches and pains. Most roundworms are transmitted through contaminated soils,
but the small spiral-shaped trichinella found in pork is the exception. These tiny roundworms can become enclosed in a cyst inside the muscles
of pigs. If pork is eaten and not thoroughly cooked, the cysts are dissolved by the human host's digestive juices, and the worms mature and travel
to the muscles, where they become encased. Eventually the worms can burrow throughout the entire body.
Beef Tapeworm Parasites (Taenia saginata)
Beef tapeworm can be ingested from raw or undercooked beef (rare or medium rare). Despite its size, several feet long, the beef tapeworm does
not produce severe symptoms in its human host - but still performs a negative function in the body. It is composed of 1000 to 2000 segment strands, known as proglottid, which contains both
male and female reproductive organs. Tapeworms thrive on the diet of the host for their carbohydrates, but utilize the tissues of the host for proteins.
Beef tapeworms have a life span in the intestine of twenty to twenty-five years. Symptoms such as diarrhea, abdmoninal cramping, nervousness, nausea, loss of appetite,
and/or food cravings are possible.
Pork Tapeworm Parasites (Taenia solium)
Pork tapeworm is similar to beef tapeworm but is shorter, with less than 1000 ploglottids. Pork tapeworm infects man through the eating of
infested undercooked pork such as fresh or smoked ham or sausage. Unlike the beef tapeworm, pork tapeworm infection is usually caused by
multiple worms rather than just one. The larva stage develops in the muscle, spreads through the central nervous system into other tissues
and organs, and finally hooks onto the upper small intestine. Pork tapeworm causes great harm to the human host when the immature larvae
invades the muscle, heart, eyes, or brain. The larval migration of pork tapeworm represents the most dangerous infection of all the tapeworms.
In the brain, the worms can create a condition known as cysticercosis, which can produce seizures and brain deterioration.
Fish Tapeworm Parasites (Diphyllobothrium latum)
The largest parasite found in humans, a fish tapeworm has up to 4000 proglottids (the worm's primary body).
It can be contracted by eating raw or lightly cooked freshwater or certain migratory species of fish, such as Alaskan salmon, perch, pike, pickerel, and turbot.
In the human intestine, a fish tapeworm can consume 80 to 100 percent of the host's vitamin B12. A vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia is a most debilitating effect.
Digestive disturbances - including pain, fullness in the upper abdomen, and nausea - are common symptoms.
Liver Fluke Parasites (Clonorchis sinensis)
The liver fluke is transmitted through the ingestion of raw, dried, salted, pickled, or undercooked fish. Snails, carp, and over 40 additional
species of fish have been known to be intermediate hosts to this fluke. In the human, it inhabits the bile ducts of the liver, causing the liver
to become enlarged and tender. It can also cause inflammation, chills, fever, jaundice, and a type of hepatitis.
Blood Fluke Parasites (Schistosoma mansoni)
Freshwater snails play intermediate host in the life cycle development of the blood fluke. The snails release larvae into water, where the larvae
can directly penetrate the skin of humans or fish in contaminated rivers or streams. The parasite burrows into the skin and is carried through the
bloodstream to the veins of the liver, intestines, or bladder. Inflammation can occur when the worms lodge in the lining of the intestine or liver.
Additionally, the bladder and urinary tract can become infected by worms lodged in the walls of the bladder.
Note: The statements contained on this website have not been reviewed or approved
by the Food and Drug Administration for their validity. Nothing contained on this
site is meant to infer or state that the products are for the treatment of any disease
or ailment. Always consult with your physician if you experience any medical problems.
References and additional information:
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Ohio State University, Biological Sciences
- Skye Weintraub, ND "The Parasite Menace""; Woodland Publishing 2000
- Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS "Guess What Came To Dinner?"; Avery 2001
- Valerie Saxion "Everybody Has Parasites"; Bronze Bow Publishing 2003
- Skye Weintraub "The Parasite Menace"; March 1998
- Roger M. Knutson "Fearsome Fauna: A Field Guide to the Creatures That Live in You"
- Carl Zimmer "Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures"
- Paavo Airola, ND, PhD "How To Get Well"; Health Plus Publishers
- Nicholas Culpepper "Culpepper's Complete Herbal"; Omega 1985
- Penny C. Royal "Herbally Yours"; Sound Nutrition 1982
- James F. Balch, MD "Prescription For Nutritional Healing"; Sound Nutrition 1997
- Alma R. Hutchens "Indian Herbology of North America"; Merco 1973
- Discover Magazine; August 2000 Edition