Intestinal worms (also known as soil-transmitted helminths) are a group of intestinal parasites that affect people mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and South-East Asia. They thrive in places where the soil is warm and humid but sanitation is poor.
The most common parasites are roundworm, whipworm and hookworm. People become infected with intestinal worms after they come into contact with soil contaminated with the parasites’ eggs.
Intestinal worms reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins. This exacerbates malnutrition and leads to anaemia, increased susceptibility to other infectious diseases, stunted growth and impaired intellectual development. Symptoms of intestinal worms become more evident as the number of worms, or size of the worms, in a person increases.
Intestinal worms are a poverty-related disease, linked to broader community development challenges, which severely limit the ability of those infected to live full and productive lives.