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Trichinosis

Related Terms

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Background

  • Trichinosis (or trichinellosis) is a complex disease about which little is known. It is caused by eight different species of round worm in the genus Trichinella. These parasites can be found in animals on all continents but Antarctica. Artic bears harbor a species of Trichinella that is resistant to freezing for reasons yet to be discovered. Recently a species of Trichinella has been discovered in East African reptiles, notably crocodiles. Carnivorous animals and humans acquire these nematodes (flat worms) by eating raw or undercooked meat and meat products of other animals, particularly pigs, horses, and wild game. The most reliable method of prevention is to cook meat thoroughly before eating.
  • Once consumed from the diet, the worms migrate from the intestines to the muscles. Symptoms are usually so mild that the diagnosis is missed, but they can include stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, eyelid swelling, and fever. Muscle pain due to the inflammation caused by chemicals the worms secrete can appear as early as one to two days after ingestion of contaminated meat. Later symptoms appear within two to eight weeks, when the worms have migrated into the muscles. Breathing may be difficult if the diaphragm muscle is involved. The heart, brain, eyes, and lungs may be involved in more serious infections. Most symptoms disappear within three months, but vague muscle pains may last for longer periods of time. Severe infections may cause death.
  • The interaction of the Trichinella organism and its infected host is highly complex. The worm secretes a variety of chemicals that induce changes in the host cells. Some of these changes allow the worm to migrate from the gut to the muscles. Other chemicals cause the muscle cells to produce a capsule around the worm. Still others cause an inflammatory reaction in muscles. Discovering these chemicals will help researchers in understanding disease mechanisms in other infections as well.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of trichinosis is about 10 million infected individuals. Most of these are in the developing world where meat inspection and controls are absent and cooking practices are less standardized. In the United States, there has been an average of 12 cases per year. Despite a century of veterinary public health efforts to control and eradicate it, however, trichinosis has experienced a dramatic re-emergence worldwide over the past 10 to 20 years. The reasons for this re-emergence are diverse and include human interference with ecosystems, war and political turmoil, rapidly changing food distribution and marketing systems, and rising affluence in developing countries.

Risk Factors

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Causes

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Signs and Symptoms

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Diagnosis

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Complications

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Treatment

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Integrative Therapies

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Prevention

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Future Research

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.