Types of Parasites

A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host, and maintains it life by feeding from the host. There are three primary classes of parasites including protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites. Some people classify bacteria, viruses, and fungus with the term parasite in a broad sense as all of these organisms and agents can live off or feed from a host. However, for the sake of clarity we will try and just discuss the three main classes.

Protozoa are single celled organisms that exhibit animal-like behavior and can be free-living or attached to a host. Protozoa are microscopic and are able to multiply rapidly when in humans or other hosts. Protozoa that live in the digestive tract are typically transmitted through fecal contamination of food, water, or other common objects. Protozoa that live in the blood are typically transmitted through a vector such as a mosquito, fly, or tick.

pic-giardiaSome common protozoa include:

  • Entamoeba
  • Giardia
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Malaria
  • Blastocystis Hominis
  • Dientamoeba Fragilis

Helminths are typically what is thought of when one mentions parasites. They are larger, multi-celled organisms that are typically macroscopic (visible to the eye). Helminths can exist out in nature or feeding off an organism internally by habitating a digestive tract or organ.

pic-tapewormSome common helminths include:

  • Roundworms
  • Flukes (liver, lung, blood)
  • Tapeworms
  • Pinworms
  • Hookworms
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Strongyloides Stercoralis

Finally there are ectoparasites. Ectoparasites encompass organisms that are blood-sucking insects that depend on a host to survive. Ectoparasites can be deadly since they can transfer disease from the tainted blood of one host to another.

pic-tickCommon ectoparasites include:

  • Lice
  • Mosquitoes
  • Ticks
  • Mites
  • Fleas

Parasites are not to be underestimated. There are thousands of different parasites and they adapt, hide, and resist exposure. By being aware of the different types and taking action to clean the body, one can eliminate many illnesses that may have plagued the individual.

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