The word helminth is a general term that means “worm,” but there are many different types of worms. All helminths that exist are multicellular eukaryotic invertebrates that have tube- shaped bodies or that can also be flattened and that have bilateral symmetry.

What are helminths?

Helminths are a biological classification of metazoan worm organisms that have the general characteristic of being parasites of man and that have the ability to make human beings sick .

  • Generalities
  • Helminth characteristics
  • Types
  • Classification
  • Helminth Diseases
  • Treatment
  • Helminth therapy
  • Examples


Helminths are beings that inhabit man and animals , they are multicellular organisms and are generally called by the name of roundworms and flatworms . Roundworms are organisms that have a cylindrical body , have a body cavity and a complete digestive tract . Flatworms have a flattened shape but do not have a body cavity and also have a very rudimentary digestive system . All helminths have a highly developed reproductive systemand to a large extent they are hermaphrodites .

All have a simple digestive system with lytic glands to facilitate tissue penetration. Likewise, its excretory system is simple and its nervous system is rudimentary. To move from one place to another they use movements similar to those of reptiles and they do not have a respiratory system .

Helminth characteristics

The main characteristics of helminths are the following:

  • Its cells group together to shape organs and tissues .
  • Its form of reproduction is sexual .
  • They can become hermaphroditic or they can also have separate sexes.
  • They are oviparous with the exception of filariae that are viviparous.
  • They inhabit the intestine , liver , muscles , brains, and lungs .
  • Its size can vary from millimeters to more than 10 centimeters.
  • They feed on the nutrients that their hosts have .
  • Their eggs form larvae of different morphology.


There are three main classes of helminths that are characterized by having common anatomical shapes and comparable life cycles , these types of helminths are the following:

  • Nematodes : They are round- shaped worms that produce a type of infection known as nematodosis .
  • Trematodes : worms are flat , whose infections are called form generally of fascioliasis or trematodoses .
  • Cestodes : these are tape- like worms such as tapeworms or tapeworms and whose infections are generally called cestodosis or taeniasis .


Helminths have the following classification:

  • Flatworms : they are worms that have a flattened type of morphology , which have attachment organs in the form of suction cups . They also have a blind digestive tube , this means that they have a mouth but do not have an anus, their sexual organs are male and female . They are considered as primitive animals that have bilateral symmetry and were the first helminths that had functional systems to form defined organs.
  • Roundworms : are also known by the name of nematodes or worms round so your body is cylindrical , not segmented, they are usually colored pink and white , and also have a complete digestive system as well as a pseudoceloma where he keeps the reproductive, digestive, appliances excretory, nervous, etc. The sexes are found in different organisms and are sexually dimorphic .

Helminth Diseases

The main diseases that can be caused by helminth infestation are the following:

  • Taeniasis : this disease is caused by the Tenia solium of porcine origin or Tenia saginata, which is of bovine origin . These helminths form cysts in animals known as cysticerci .
  • Dipholobothriasis : the disease is produced by Diphyllobothrium latum , which is a parasite that lives in fish , it can also be generated by Hydatidosis or Echinococcosis which is produced by Echinococcus granulosus , an extremely dangerous disease caused by cysts caused by the worm. It is transmitted to man through dogs , although it can be acquired through meat or contaminated water .
  • Trichinosis : is a disease caused by Trichinella spiralis and occurs in the form of intramuscular cysts in farm pigs.
  • Anisakiasis : this disease is produced by Anisakis marina which is carried by fish such as herring.
  • Capilariasis : it is produced by Capillaria philipina and is transmitted to humans through the consumption of raw meat or fish .
  • Ascariasis : it is produced by Ascaris lumbricoides and is transmitted through person-person contact when hygiene is inadequate and there is fecal contamination.


Within treatment include the importance of prophylaxis , hygiene , the freezing and the heat treatment suitable for meat larvae are able to inactivate possible encysted .

For roundworms , the indicated treatment is oral antiparasitics such as albendazole, flubendazole, pyrantel, for one or more days. Treatment should be directed to the whole family to prevent them from becoming infected, and many times it is also necessary to repeat the treatment.

When there is an infestation with flatworms , treatment should be with oral antiparasitics such as niclosamide, albendazole, flubendazole, pyrantel. As in the previous case, the treatment must be administered to the whole family to avoid reinfestations and, in some cases, repeat the treatment after a certain time.

Helminth therapy

Helminth therapy has been considered one of the most important alternative treatments to combat some important diseases such as Crohn’s disease , multiple sclerosis ,  asthma , and ulcerative colitis . .

It consists of inoculating the patient with helminths to modify the immune response and thus reduce the inflammation and damage to the tissues that are associated with these diseases.


Some examples of helminths are:

  • Taenia solium, taenia sagittarius, liver fluke, roundworm or roundworm, trichinella spiralis, schistosoma sp.

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