A parasite is an organism which exploits any other live animal for nutrition. In most cases, the parasitic process causes harm to the body through the actual removal of the nutrients, or by carrying other diseases into the body.
Parasites are often thought of as a tropical disease, but this is a huge misconception. It is estimated that as many as 10% of people in the UK have parasites. Many people will carry parasitic infections at a subclinical level for years, with the parasite feeding, reproducing and affecting the health of the host. Contaminated food and water, raw or inadequately cooked meat and fish and physical contact are the most widespread sources of intestinal parasites.
The effect of parasites living in the gut depends on the species of parasite identified. There are two main types of intestinal parasite, helminths and protozoa.
Symptoms of intestinal parasites include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Gas, bloating
- Dysentery (loose stools containing blood and mucus)
- Rash, itching around the anus or vulva
- Stomach pain, tenderness
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
- Passing a worm or section of a worm, in your stool
The likelihood of a parasitic infection is greatly increased if you experience any of the above symptoms following foreign travel.
- A stool sample is required for this test.
- Results will be available in 7 to 10 working days from sample receipt at the lab.