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Trichuris trichiura, Molecular Detection

Molecular testing for Trichuris trichiura (whipworm) is used for the diagnosis and laboratory documentation of trichuriasis.

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Human whipworm (Trichuris trichiura or Trichocephalus trichiurus) is a nematode species, a parasite that lives in the caecum (less frequently in the rest large intestine) of a human. The whipworm has a filamentous body shape, it is 3-5 cm long. The front part of its body is much thinner than the back, almost like hair, hence its name. It feeds mainly on blood, penetrating the intestinal mucosa. A characteristic feature of whipworms is eggs with polar protuberances at both ends. The invasion takes place by ingestion, drinking water contaminated with eggs, and eating unwashed fruit or vegetables. Trichuris trichiura is the third most common roundworm of humans. It has a worldwide distribution, with infections more frequent in areas with tropical weather and poor sanitation practices, and among children. It is estimated that 800 million people are infected worldwide.

The infection (trichuriasis) is usually asymptomatic, however, with a large number of parasites the following may occur: lack of appetite, abdominal pain, mucous diarrhea, sometimes with blood, weight loss, insomnia, neurosis, dizziness and headaches, anemia and related symptoms (weakness, pale skin), allergic symptoms on the skin. In children, a whipworm infection additionally manifests itself in growth inhibition and delayed cognitive development. Personal hygiene must be observed to prevent infection. In addition, vegetables and fruits eaten raw must be washed thoroughly.

Microscopic identification of whipworm eggs in feces is evidence of infection. Because eggs may be difficult to find in light infections, a concentration procedure is recommended. For the majority of intestinal parasites, real-time PCR-based diagnosis outperforms microscopy.

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