Ascaris lumbricoides

Ascaris lumbricoides

We were nearing the end of an operation on a man for an intestinal perforation when we were rinsing out the abdomen with saline. Suddenly, from the loops of intestine near the top of the abdomen, this little guy starts rising up like a cobra dancing to the tune of a snake charmer. I was quite pleased when all the Africans jumped much higher than me. I was further pleased when I was the only one with the guts to pick it up (I did have gloves on…). Meet Ascaris lumbricoides. I find his life cycle to be particularly interesting. According to the books, you pick this thing up when you eat food contaminated with infected feces containing the eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae make their way through the blood system to your liver and, from there, on up to the lungs. In the lungs, they work themselves into the air sacs, called alveoli, where you cough them up and swallow them right back down. Once they get back to the small intestines, they grow into the adult worm (see above). Then the female produces “innumerable eggs that are fertilised and thereafter excreted in the stool to perpetuate the life cylce.” Yummy. And to think we Americans get all worked up over E. coli. Please, E. coli’s a chump 😉

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