Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing threadworm infections, according to new research conducted by the Parasitic Disease Research Centre at Suranaree University of Technology in Bangkok. The university recommends alcohol drinkers test themselves for threadworms at least once or twice a year to prevent severe infections.
Threadworms – Strongyloides stercoralis – are tiny parasitic worms that infect the large intestine in humans. Threadworms, or pinworms, are common all over the world, especially in tropical areas.
Regular alcohol drinkers are 5 times more likely to develop threadworm infections than non-drinkers, according to the study. Alcohol consumption was found to be a risk factor associated with most threadworm infections in adults. The research also found a link between alcoholism and severe threadworm infections.
Another study compared 263 regular alcohol drinkers compared to 590 non-drinkers. The study found that 20.5% of the drinkers were infected with threadworms, whereas only 4.4% of the non-drinkers were infected. The study found the infections in drinkers were also significantly more severe (Marques CC, et al., 2010).
Alcohol consumption stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – the HPA axis – to produce more cortisol. Overproduction of cortisol weakens the immune system, especially type 2 T helper cells (Th2). This allows the worms to multiply faster and can cause autoinfection, where reinfection is caused by larvae that are already in the body.
Threadworm infections can be caused by eating contaminated food, such as fruits and vegetables. The worms can also enter the body through the skin. Symptoms include small warms in the stool, abdominal pain, indigestion, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Suranaree University recommends regular alcohol drinkers test themselves for threadworms at least once or twice a year. Infections can be easily treated with medicine such as Mebendazole which can be bought at most pharmacies.
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