Trichinosis (also known as trichinellosis) is an infection caused by a roundworm known as Trichinella. It is not to be confused with the parasite Trichomonas, which causes vaginal infections in women.
What is going on in the body?
Theroundworm is found in almost every meat-eating mammal. People usually become infected when they eat poorly cooked or raw meat, especially pork.
The larvae of the worm are found in cysts, or small capsules, in the meat. The individual's stomach juices dissolve the cyst and free the larvae. The larvae grow and mate in the person's bowels.
The female worms produce more larvae, which go from the bowels into the person's blood. The larvae then go from the blood vessels into the muscles and form new cysts.
What are the causes and risks of the infection?
Trichinosis is caused by the roundworm Trichinella. Eating raw or inadequately cooked meat increases the risk of acquiring trichinosis.
What can be done to prevent the infection?
Trichinosis is prevented by thoroughly cooking meats, especially pork. Meat should be cooked so that all parts of it reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The larvae can also be killed by freezing the meat at 16 degrees Fahrenheit for 36 hours.
How is the infection diagnosed?
Diagnosis of trichinosis begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare professional may order the following tests:
- an antibody titer test, to look for antibodies produced against the worm
- a complete blood count, or CBC
- a muscle biopsy, in which a small piece of muscle tissue is examined under a microscope
Long Term Effects
What are the long-term effects of the infection?
Long-term effects and death from trichinosis are very rare. Symptoms of inflammation in the brain, lungs, or heart (encephalitis, pneumonitis, and myocarditis respectively) are also rare.
What are the risks to others?
Trichinosis is not spread from person to person.
What are the treatments for the infection?
There is no treatment that will eliminate the trichinosis infection. If it is diagnosed early, the healthcare provider may prescribe thiabendazole (i.e., Mintezol) to dislodge some of the worms. Steroids, such as prednisone, may be also used to control symptoms.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Thiabendazole can cause diarrhea and stomach upset. Steroids can cause high blood glucose and an increased risk of infections.
What happens after treatment for the infection?
Most people recover completely from trichinosis by the third month after infection. Vague muscular pains and tiredness may persist for months.
How is the infection monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.