Hookworm: what it is, symptoms, treatment, prevention

A larva capable of infiltrating the organism and reaching the bloodstream? Yes, we are talking about hookworm. Frequent condition, which reaches warmer regions, with high humidity and little infrastructure.

If you were interested to know more about this condition, then check out the full article below!


What is hookworm disease?

Hookworm is an intestinal infection caused by the larvae Ancylostoma Duodenale and Necator Americanus , which causes nausea, nausea, anemia , among others .

Popularly known as yellowing or jeca armadillo disease , the hookworm larva, responsible for the infection, infiltrates the organism through the mouth or skin, reaching the bloodstream and consequently affecting the entire body.

Currently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about half a billion people are infected with hookworm, representing an extremely significant amount and, consequently, a worldwide concern.

The parasite is found more frequently in tropical regions and its evolutionary cycle occurs through the feces of the host, in this case, humans.

Depending on the stage of the disease, it can be asymptomatic. However, there are clinical presentations that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

This condition is classified in ICD 10 in the following codes:

  • B76 – Hookworm;
  • B76.9 – Hookworm, unspecified.

What are strongyloidiasis and hookworm?

Both conditions can be classified as parasitic , that is, diseases caused by parasites.

Upon entering our organism, these beings develop diseases, in addition to causing various damages to the human body. In some cases, without proper treatment, these parasites can lead to death.

Popular name: how is hookworm known?

Hookworm is a condition that has yellow skin as one of the main symptoms. This is because the parasite that causes the disease is responsible for sucking the patient’s blood, generating anemia, responsible for making the skin yellow.

Thus, one of the most common ways to call hookworm is yellowing .

The condition is also popularly known as Jeca Tatu , as a result of a story by Monteiro Lobato. The author was known for writing children’s literature, however, some of his stories were based on the social nature.

This is the case of the story of Jeca Tatu, which aimed to represent a character who was at the mercy of neglect with agricultural and sanitary issues. As the disease has a strong relationship with precarious health, there was a relationship between the conditions.


Hookworm is an infection caused by a type of parasite known as a nematode .

This species has a cylindrical shape and is often found in areas of human defecation or where feces are used as fertilizers for soil cultivation.

For this reason, hookworm occurs frequently in countries with tropical climates and with little infrastructure in relation to hygiene and basic sanitation. The worms release eggs that remain in the soil until they reach the capacity to hatch into larvae and penetrate human skin.

In some specific cases it is possible for the larvae to undergo the mutation process, reaching the lymphatic vessels and reaching the bloodstream.

In these cases, the infection can reach the lungs and alveoli, migrating to other areas of the body, such as the pharynx and trachea.

From this stage, the larvae can be ingested, reaching the small intestine, where due to ideal conditions, they stabilize for 6 to 7 weeks, when they reach maturity and begin to reproduce.

At this stage, the larvae can release thousands of eggs, which suck blood from the walls of the intestine, preventing the absorption of nutrients, causing anemia.

Read more: Lack of hygiene and sanitation affect 1 in 4 health centers

Life cycle and transmission

Hookworm is a condition caused by the eggs of the Ancylostoma Duodenale and Necator Americanus larvae .

They need to be in favorable conditions of humidity and temperature so that they can develop until they become infectious. This stage lasts from 7 to 10 days and it is during this period that they penetrate the skin of the feet, causing a characteristic dermatitis .

The transmission of hookworm is not direct, from person to person, however, the soil can remain contaminated for a long time if it is left without the appropriate treatments to adapt the soil.

That is, it occurs when people walk barefoot on a ground with contaminated soil or when they eat without proper hygiene, bringing to the mouth larvae that are present in the environment.

Another possibility is to receive the infection through your pet, especially if he has the habit of staying in open spaces. This is because the animal can go for a walk outside and bring possible larvae inside the house.

Groups of risk

Some regions are more likely to develop conditions such as hookworm. This is because, generally, these places have little sanitation and infrastructure focused on the disposal and destination of sewage.

There is a group of people who have a greater tendency to develop the condition, among which we can mention:

  • Kids;
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women;
  • People who work in rural areas.

What are the symptoms of hookworm?

Hookworm is a condition that can usually be seen through skin rashes and itching where the larva infiltrates the body.

In addition, it is possible to notice some other symptoms, among which we can mention:

Abdominal discomfort

Due to the mutation of the larva and its movement to the intestine, it is possible that the patient will present abdominal pain, lack of appetite, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea .

Breathing problems

When present in the lungs and airways, the hookworm larva can cause lung irritation, in addition to coughing and wheezing.


Hookworm is an infection that can cause a lot of blood loss, since the parasites present in the intestine feed on the blood present in the walls. As a consequence, it is possible to develop anemia severe enough to cause fatigue and generalized swelling.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms may also occur, such as:

  • Fever;
  • Apathy.

How is the diagnosis made?

The main method of diagnosis of hookworm is through the identification of larvae eggs present in the feces. For this, it is necessary to carry out a collection of samples to be analyzed in the laboratory.

The professionals most indicated for the follow-up and indication of treatment of the disease are the general practitioner and the infectious disease specialist.

In addition, in some cases a hematological examination may be performed in order to check for the presence of anemia in the body.

The test is done by means of a simple blood collection, in which blood cell rates are measured in order to check for low concentrations.

Is there a cure?

Yes. With proper treatment, it is possible to cure hookworm without major complications.

What are the forms of treatment of hookworm?

The treatment of hookworm is carried out with the prescription of anthelmintic drugs, intended for isolated or advanced infections. In most cases, treatment is quick, around 1 to 3 days of medication, in order to eliminate parasites and improve the body.

If the patient has anemia, it is recommended to do iron replacement orally.


The drugs indicated for hookworm are of the anthelmintic class. Among them we can mention:

  • Mebendazole ( Pantelmin , Multielmin , Helmilab , Multizol , Belmirax );
  • Albendazole (Alin, Parasin , Compressed Albel , Zentel , Albendrox ).


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.


The prognosis is very positive for people who follow the treatment correctly. After completing the correct cycle of medication use, most patients are completely cured and without risk of complications.

Can hookworm have complications?

When the infection remains for a long period of time, hookworm can cause excessive loss of iron and proteins .

As a consequence, the organism may experience a delay in growth and mental and cognitive development. In addition, it is possible to present the following complications:


The lack of iron causes the development of anemia, which causes a decrease in red blood cells. In extreme cases, this decrease can cause heart failure.


When migrating to the lungs, the larvae can end up causing an inflammation in the organ, which will react causing a condition called pneumonitis.

Prophylaxis: how to prevent hookworm?

The main measure of hookworm control and prevention is related to the development of educational materials, which aim to share personal and community hygiene tips and habits.

In addition, a good way to reduce the chances of mutation of the larva is by paying attention to the possible risks of soil contamination.

Maintaining correct sanitation, avoiding the dumping of feces and sewage in the soil, contributes to the prevention of hookworm.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid walking barefoot outside the home;
  • Drink drinking water;
  • Properly sanitize food and containers;
  • Always wash your hands.

Canine hookworm

Hookworm can affect domestic dogs, through the parasite Ancylostona caninum. The main form of infection of these animals is cutaneous, through contact with external environments, on walks, for example.

In the same way as in humans, hookworm in animals also reaches the intestine, because it is where the larvae consider ideal, due to temperature and humidity.

Common questions

Can I get hookworm through my pet?

-Yeah . To ensure your health and that of your pet, take him to get all the necessary vaccinations and make sure to take him in for routine visits, in order to confirm that everything is ok.

Why is hookworm known as jeca armadillo disease?

Hookworm is a condition that was represented in a tale by Monteiro Lobato, entitled Jeca Tatu. The story addresses the agricultural problems caused due to the lack of basic sanitation, that is, Jeca Tatu is used to criticize the circumstances of the time.