Hookworm anemia

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Anemia associated with heavy hookworm infestation


Hookworm anemia is associated with severe infestation of parasitic hookworms. Hookworms are nematodes that are characterized by their hook-like shape. These worms resemble a hook because their head is slightly bent.1 Parasitic hookworms infest their host's intestines. They attach to the intestinal lining and feed on the host's blood. Thus, heavy infestation of hookworms in the intestines of the host often leads to anemia.

Human hookworms are Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. They may appear similar in terms of morphology but can be distinguished particularly by their mouth parts. Ancylostoma duodenale has two pairs of sharp teeth whereas Necator americanus has one pair of cutting plate.1 Both of them use their mouth to attach to the intestine, particularly the small intestine. Other hookworms that infest other animals are Ancylostoma tubaeforme (a cat hookworm) and Ancylostoma caninum (a dog hookworm).

Hookworm anemia is the main complication of hookworm disease. Apart from it, hookworm infestation is also associated with cutaneous larva migrans. The latter is a skin disease affecting humans that are infested by hookworm larvae that are typically of other animal hosts. Larvae in soil and moist areas creep through an exposed skin as a mode of entry to an incidental host. The creeping of larvae in the skin results in a tunnel underneath the skin and can be itchy. Thus, the term ground itch anemia is a term that pertains to hookworm anemia as well. Another term that is synonymous with hookworm anemia is intertropical anemia. However, it is an obsolete term for anaemia occurring in hookworm disease, chiefly necatoriasis.

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1 Pineda, N. & Yang, E. (n.d.). Hookworm: Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. Retrieved from [[1]].