The Importance of Regular Deworming
Learn about the dangers of foodborne parasites and how to prevent and treat infections. Discover common parasites that contaminate fresh produce and can cause serious health issues. Take necessary precautions such as proper cooking, hand washing, and disinfecting to reduce the risk of infection.
Foodborne diseases (FBD) include those illnesses caused by parasites, organisms that can be transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water, contact with infected animals, and, in some cases, through human-to-human contact. Parasites can cause a wide range of health problems in humans, from gastrointestinal ailments to serious infections that can lead to death.
It is important to note that most of these infections are preventable by taking measures such as cooking food properly, washing hands frequently, disinfecting fruits and vegetables before consumption, and avoiding drinking untreated water. In addition, it is important to ensure that food is stored properly and kept at safe temperatures to prevent contamination.
Among the protozoan parasites that can contaminate fresh produce and cause illness in humans are Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia, and Cyclospora cayetanesis, which produce cysts and constitute the resistant phase responsible for the transmission of the microorganism. The cysts can remain in the environment for long periods and remain viable or in optimal conditions to cause disease.
C. parvum causes severe untreatable gastroenteritis, and in immunodeficient individuals, the infection can cause up to 50% mortality. A massive outbreak in 1993 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which affected more than four hundred thousand people, is considered the largest outbreak of waterborne illness in the history of that country.
The potential for food contamination by C. parvum was demonstrated when, due to the spread of cattle manure on an apple crop, it was concluded that this caused an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis through the consumption of unpasteurized apple juice.
G. lamblia has also been reported as the cause of several outbreaks of gastroenteritis from the consumption of fresh vegetables in the United States. The rapid increase in drinking water-related outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis and past outbreaks of giardiasis prompted extensive monitoring for these microorganisms in U.S. surface waters.
These studies have indicated that these parasites are commonly detected in such reservoirs, and are expected to be present in almost all surface waters, given that domestic and wild animals are a source of contamination.
In recent years, C. cayetanesis, another parasite present in emergency cases, has also been associated with several outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States.
Despite taking the precautions listed at the beginning of this article, there is no certainty that we are free of parasites, especially if we are in the habit of eating in restaurants or informal food establishments, so it is recommended to take dewormers regularly.
Dewormers are safe and effective drugs that eliminate parasites from the body. These drugs are used to both prevent and treat infections and help reduce the risk of serious health complications such as anemia, malnutrition, and chronic intestinal diseases.
Children and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to parasitic infections and should be treated promptly.
Deworming every six months is recommended as a preventive measure. The drug should only be prescribed by health professionals, as its dosage depends on the age and clinical profile of the individual.
Author: Cristóbal Chaidez Quiroz, a researcher at the Regional Coordination of CIAD in Culiacán and director of the National Laboratory for Food Safety Research (LANIIA).