Reader’s Mother May Have Whipworms

A woman wrote to us asking for help in identifying worms that her mother has passed with her stool. She says that her mom has been ill for three years, and that when they sent this specimen to a lab that the lab didn’t find anything. She has included a picture and a video.

We want to note, as always, that we are not medical doctors. We do not claim to have any medical knowledge or training and are making no attempt to diagnose or treat any illnesses.

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However, we thought we would try to give the reader a suggestion as to what this might be so that she can bring the information to her doctor.

We are going to assume that this sample was acquired in such a way that there is no possibility that this worm came from anywhere except the mother’s stool. Meaning that this is definitely not a creature that was already in the toilet (which would likely be a drain fly larva).

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With that assumption, we will attempt to figure out how big this worm is.  The background looks like it may be a piece of toilet paper. We believe that this creature is about 1/5” (~5cm) long.

One possibility is that her mother passed the body of a whip worm (Trichuris trichiura). These are nematodes (round worms) that can infest the human colon. While, again, we are not medical professionals, the CDC states:

Whipworms live in the intestine and whipworm eggs are passed in the feces of infected persons… Infection occurs worldwide in warm and humid climates where sanitation and hygiene are poor, including in temperate climates during warmer months. Persons in these areas are at risk if soil contaminated with human feces enters their mouths or if they eat vegetables or fruits that have not been carefully washed, peeled or cooked…

People with light infections usually have no signs or symptoms. People with heavy infections can experience frequent, painful passage of stool that contains a mixture of mucus, water, and blood. The diarrhea typically has an acrid smell. In severe cases growth retardation can occur. Rectal prolapse can also occur. In children, heavy infection may be associated with growth retardation and impaired cognitive development.

 

Adult Trichuris trichiura. Photo by Alan R. Walker (CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

While this worm is about the correct size and color, we’re hesitant to say conclusively that this is what the reader’s mother passed. As we understand it, this type of adult worm attaches itself to the walls of the cecum or ascending colon, so it is not normal for these to be passed in feces. However, this is far, far outside our area of expertise, and a doctor who is familiar with this type of infection would know whether it is possible to pass this type of worm in human feces or not.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide a definitive identification. Due to our lack of medical training, all we can go is hazard a guess as to what is ailing the reader’s mother. The reader’s mother might consult a doctor that specializes in travel medicine, since many parasitic worms are more common in places outside the US. We are hoping that her mother has a speedy recovery.

Summary
Reader's Mother May Have Whipworms
Article Name
Reader's Mother May Have Whipworms
Description
A woman wrote to us asking for help in identifying worms that her mother has passed with her stool. She says that her mom has been ill for three years, and that when they sent this specimen to a lab that the lab didn’t find anything. She has included a picture and a video.
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