For many people, the thought of worms and other parasites living inside the human gut tops the gross-factor list.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that millions of Americans are currently infected with parasites, but may not be aware of it.
That’s because parasitic infections and symptoms often go unnoticed or are misdiagnosed.
Parasites are organisms typically digested through food and water, but can be passed to humans by animals or insects — even other humans.
Parasitic infection can lead to serious human health problems, including seizures, blindness, a compromised immune system, pregnancy complications, heart failure, and death.
The CDC says while parasitic infections are typically associated with poor and often marginalized communities in low-income countries, they are also as American as apple pie.
Parasites take up residence inside their human hosts and live on their nutrients. Parasites transmit diseases that cause minor ailments as well as serious and sometimes life-threatening illness.
It's believed that about 62 million Americans are currently infected with five of the most common — and neglected — parasites. The CDC is making these parasites priorities for public health action.
Parasitic infections are an unpleasant fact of life, but a common drug developed decades ago to prevent parasitic pinworms is being investigated as an unconventional treatment in the fight against cancer.
Some good news for brain cancer
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore are treating terminal brain cancer patients with the pinworm preventative drug.
Dr. Gregory J. Riggins, a Johns Hopkins professor of neurology and oncology, told The Baltimore Sun that the promising treatment which costs just a few dollars a dose could one day become a go-to cancer drug for glioblastoma multiforme, a common and aggressive brain cancer.