Parasitic Worms that can Penetrate Intact Skin


ISSN: 1059-6518

Parasitic worms and shoes – all about why, to stay healthy, we wear shoes.

By Frank Hubbell, DO

Illustrations By T.B.R. Walsh

The intention of this article is to explain why you should never, ever walk around the great outdoors barefoot, and why you should never, ever lie on moist ground exposing unprotected bare skin to the soil.

The reason is actually quite simple and a bit disgusting. There are parasitic worms that can live in warm, moist soil. When they come into contact with your skin, they will latch on to you, make a hole in your intact, healthy skin, and burrow into you. Once inside, they will proceed to their target organ, usually your intestinal tract, and parasitize you. As their unwilling host, you become sick and are now part of their life cycle.


Helminthes are parasitic worms in the Kingdom of Animalia.

Within this Kingdom there are two Phylum of parasitic worms, Platyhelmenthes and Nematoda.

The Phylum of Platyhelmenthes has two Classes of parasitic worms, Cestodes – tapeworms and Trematodes – flukes and flatworms.

The Phylum of Nematoda contains one Class of parasitic worms, Nematoda – roundworms.

There are many ways to divide up the world or parasitic worms. One way to distinguish them is by how they enter and parasitize their host. Most commonly, these parasitic worms gain entrance via the alimentary canal when you consume contaminated food or water. The other way is by penetrating intact, healthy skin.

In this article we are going to review the parasitic worms that gain access to their host by directly penetrating intact, healthy skin.

Parasitic Nematodes that enter the body by penetrating intact skin:

Necator americanis /Ancylostoma duodenale – hookworm

Ancylostoma braziliense – cutaneous larva migrans

Strongyloides stercoralis – threadworm

Parasitic Trematodes that enter the body by penetrating intact skin:

Schistosomiasis – swimmer’s itch

All of the other parasitic worms: cestodes – tapeworms, nematodes – round worms, and trematodes – flatworms and flukes, enter by ingestion of the infectious parasite in food or water.

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Waterborne Diseases and Water Purification

July/August 2008  ISSN-1059-6518  Volume 21 Number 4





As has been mentioned several times in previous articles, waterborne diseases are some of the most common diseases known to man. Spread primarily via the oral-fecal route when a pathogen in human or animal waste contaminates the drinking water supply, the disease-causing pathogen is then transmitted to people when they drink the water, consume food that was washed in the contaminated water or handled by dirty hands that prepared their food, or by washing their hands in the contaminated water.

The exceptions to this mode of transmission are Schistosomiasis and Naegleriasis. A common parasitic disease, Schistosomiasis is contracted by swimming in contaminated water instead of drinking it. Once the parasite is on your skin, it will make its way into your body by burrowing through your skin—in the process causing a rash known as swimmer’s itch or duck itch.

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Tales of the Tapeworm

By Dr. E.C. Oli

July/August 2002 ISSN-1059-6518 Volume 15, Number 4


Schistosoma japonicum, Schistosoma mansoni, Schistosoma haematobium

Schistosomiasis is an infectious disease that you can get from swimming in contaminated water. The parasite is unique in that it does not have to be ingested, instead is can burrow directly through your skin, breaching our primary line of defense.

The natural life cycle of this organism is from ducks, to snails, to ducks. The organism lives in the duck’s gut; it is spread with the duck feces into water. In the water it is in a free swimming form called a cercarium. This form penetrates the snail and takes up residency. It then gets back from the snail to the duck when the duck eats the snail. So, the duck poops in the water, the cercaria swims around until it finds a snail, it then burrows into the snail, and then the duck eats the snail.

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