Monday, 31 January 2011

Pinworms and Human Immunity

Thoughts on pinworm infections...

I had a strongly worded email from someone who had apparently read, and taken exception to, one of my articles about pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis). I was a little surprised by the tone of the email - who knows why someone would become attached to this particular soapbox - but the vehement claim that the human immune system will eradicate a case of pinworm (enterobiasis) got me thinking.

One female pinworm can produce 10,000 sticky eggs.
Mentnafunangann; CC BY-SA 3.0

Will Pinworm Infection Resolve Without Treatment?

I’m of the understanding that a pinworm infection will resolve on its own eventually if left untreated – and I never said otherwise – but what role does the immune system play? Can the immune system kill the adult worms? We know that the immune system responds to parasites, but many parasites are good at evading immune attacks, and prompting moderation of the immune response. Enterobius vermicularis should be particularly good at this because it is one of our heirloom parasites: it’s been with us hundreds of thousands of years.

Add to this the frequently reported problem of reinfestation through swallowing eggs in the home/school environment and one begins to suspect that waiting for the immune system to do the job could be a long process. It’s clear that, for many people, the immune system is ineffective at eliminating the adults (they likely die of old age after a month or so), and unable to effectively kill larvae over the long term after initial exposure.

Having said all that, it probably doesn’t matter all that much, except for those unfortunate individuals that experience bad symptoms.

A Realistic Approach For Pinworm Infection

Further thoughts:
  • Texts tell us that the majority of pinworm infections are asymptomatic, so lots of people have pinworms, don’t suffer any unpleasant symptoms, and eventually eliminate the worms on their own. (And if they have no symptoms, they’re less likely to spread it around.)

  • The ability to fight off enterobiasis likely varies from one person to the next, as it appears to with other parasitic worm infestations.

  • An overzealous approach to eradicating pinworms is probably unrealistic.  They’re so good at spreading themselves around, and we’re so poor at fighting them off, that actually getting rid of them is next to impossible.

  • When symptoms are severe and persistent, however, only the most stoic of patients would refuse treatment. I’ve never had the pleasure myself, but I’ve heard first hand accounts that were not pretty.
I suspect most people would choose to treat a pinworm infection but it's up to the individual.


  1. I have had problems for 2 yr now. I've tried everything I can find: doctors, OTC medications and regular medications, tests colon exams and treatments, natural treatments, home cleaning etc. Doctors don't believe me since tests show nothing and I guess think I'm crazy. I've seen the pinworms myself, although they are small. I want nothing more than to be free of these horrible things. I'm tortured day and night with only some relief for a short periods. I've spent so much money and time .

    1. One small pill must give you 3-6 months of no-itch period, but if you're getting it every months are so? You might need to see good doctor. I head garlic inside rectal chamber works.

  2. First off, I am not a therapist. I am a daughter of someone who went through the same thing you are doing. I am a mother of a child who has pinworms right now. STOP THE INSANITY! PINWORMS ARE NOT HARMFUL!! You actually may have become so paranoid, like my father did, that you have the symptoms even though the worms ARE GONE. The doctors have no reason to lie about the tests being negative. My dad had even started keeping what he had in jars to show his doctor. His doctor told him to STOP and find someone to talk to about this obsession. The symptoms went away after no more treatments or tests because he found a counselor that helped him stop obsessing. Good luck.

    1. Imagine if you are wrong. This poor person has been suffering and No One Believes her. What if she's right? She deserves an answer and some relief. I have been having some similar issues. The garlic really does work. I have multiple issues (thyroid and gallbladder) the symptoms blend together. Wondering if other people are having heart palpitations and racing heart? High blood pressure and low blood pressure alternating. I feel like the infestation is in my heart and my anus.

  3. Roundworms are parasites that use your body as a host to stay alive and reproduce. The good news is that pinworm infections can be treated effectively with medications.

  4. This is really informative post and I personally would like to appreciate the efforts. We are also dealing in same field hence found this informative to add in our process also. Once again thanks for your post.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Ugh, thank you. My daughter keeps getting them. I thought adults grew immune. NOT THIS ADULT! Other than being disgusted by it,,, i guess its my pride. Are we not clean enough,,, do i not keep a clean enough house,,,, ect. I know she continues to get them from a boy in her class, as every
    Time i see this kid he is digging in his ass! I've gone to the school, which was so embarrassing, but they actually received it well and sent home notes for parents.this was last year. However, we are still fighting this, because his parents aren't!!!

  7. I was one of those "stoic" individuals. I got the worms several times before my teenage years. The second to last time, I was sternly lectured, so when I got them AGAIN (at around 13 years old), I didn't tell anyone.

    It was pure misery. I was very flexible, back then, and spent most nights picking them out of my own bum. They wanted to migrate toward my vagina but (thankfully) I was sealed (some "disorder" I needed Premarin for).

    They eventually disappeared completely and I never got them again.

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