A parasite is an organism which exploits any other live animal for nutrition. In most cases, the parasitic process causes harm to the host 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.
Diagnosis of helminth infection is normally through the detection of the eggs in the stool. These eggs are highly infectious, and very robust. The pig tapeworm Taenia solium has been shown to survive for a decade and still re-infect a new host when eaten. Worms will live in the gut for many years reproducing, reducing the absorption of nutrients and generally affecting the hostâ€™s health.
The protozoa are single celled organisms. These organisms combine all organs needed for feeding, reproducing and mobility in one single cell, typically about a fiftieth of a millimetre in diameter. The ability to rapidly reproduce and the excretion of toxic waste materials, mean that when these animals do infect the gut, there is the potential for serious acute disease. There are many protozoa that are recognised as pathogenic, that is disease causing often with common characteristics of diarrhoea, cramps, flatulence and abdominal discomfort.
Symptoms of intestinal parasites
- 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.
How the test works.
CNS carry out a total of 12 investigations. Samples are subjected to a microscopic examination using specific stains to highlight any parasite species. We use state of the art microscope photography to record the presence of any parasites, and will report back the presence of any species detected. It is key that the parasite is correctly determined, as this will have important implications for any therapy.
When you order the test we will send you the stool collection kit with comprehensive instructions for use. Samples need to be taken on 3 different days, and put into the pots provided containing a preservative. On the final day a sample is also placed into a pot without preservative, to enable us to examine the live gut fauna. Click on â€˜Taking the testâ€™
When you have collected the required samples, you just post them back to the laboratory in the mail-safe container.
Test turnaround times
The results of our investigation will be returned to you within 10 working days.