Trichuriasis, also known as whipworm infection, is an infection by the parasitic worm Trichuris trichiura (whipworm). If infection is only with a few worms, there are often no symptoms. In those who are infected with many worms, there may be abdominal pain, tiredness and diarrhea. The diarrhea sometimes contains blood. Infections in children may cause poor intellectual and physical development. Low red blood cell levels may occur due to loss of blood.
The disease is usually spread when people eat food or drink water that contains the eggs of these worms. This may occur when contaminated vegetables are not fully cleaned or cooked. Often these eggs are in the soil in areas where people defecate outside and where untreated human feces is used as fertilizer. These eggs originate from the feces of infected people. Young children playing in such soil and putting their hands in their mouths also become infected easily. The worms live in the large bowel and are about four centimetres in length. Whipworm is diagnosed by seeing the eggs when examining the stool with a microscope. Eggs are barrel-shaped. Trichuriasis belongs to the group of soil-transmitted helminthiases.
Prevention is by properly cooking food and hand washing before cooking. Other measures include improving access to sanitation such as ensuring use of functional and clean toilets and access to clean water. In areas of the world where the infections are common, often entire groups of people will be treated all at once and on a regular basis. Treatment is with three days of the medication: albendazole, mebendazole or ivermectin. People often become infected again after treatment.
Whipworm infection affected about 464 million in 2015. It is most common in tropical countries. In the developing world, those infected with whipworm often also have hookworms and ascariasis infections. They have a large effect on the economy of many countries. Work is ongoing to develop a vaccine against the disease. Trichuriasis is classified as a neglected tropical disease.