Strongyloides disease, also known as strongyloidiasis, is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode (roundworm) called Strongyloides stercoralis. This infection is commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions, but it can occur worldwide.
The primary cause of strongyloidiasis is the direct contact of human skin with contaminated soil or water containing the infective larvae of the Strongyloides parasite. The larvae can penetrate the skin, usually through bare feet, and enter the bloodstream. From there, they migrate to the lungs, where they are coughed up and swallowed, eventually reaching the small intestine. In the intestine, the larvae mature into adult worms, which lay eggs that hatch into new larvae. These larvae can then reinfect the individual by penetrating the intestinal wall or perianal skin, leading to a cycle of autoinfection.
Strongyloidiasis is treated with antiparasitic medications, most commonly ivermectin. Ivermectin is highly effective in killing the adult worms and larvae. The treatment duration may vary depending on the severity of the infection and the individual's immune status. In some cases, repeat treatment or extended courses of treatment may be necessary to ensure complete eradication of the parasite.
Diagnosing strongyloidiasis can be challenging because the symptoms can be nonspecific or absent, especially in mild cases. However, several diagnostic methods are available:
Stool examination: A microscopic examination of stool samples can detect the presence of Strongyloides larvae or eggs. Multiple stool samples collected on different days may be necessary due to the intermittent shedding of larvae in the stool.
Serologic tests: Blood tests can detect antibodies produced in response to Strongyloides infection. These tests can be useful in diagnosing chronic or disseminated strongyloidiasis.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): PCR tests can detect the DNA of the Strongyloides parasite in stool or other samples with high sensitivity and specificity.
It's important to note that in individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those receiving immunosuppressive therapy or with HIV/AIDS, strongyloidiasis can become a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. In these cases, it is crucial to promptly diagnose and treat the infection to prevent complications.
If you suspect you or someone you know may have strongyloidiasis, it is recommended to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can perform the necessary tests and provide appropriate treatment based on the individual's condition and specific circumstances.