Whipworm infection is an infection of the large intestine with a type of roundworm.
Whipworm infection is caused by the roundworm Trichuris trichiura. It is a common infection that mainly affects children.
Children may become infected if they swallow soil contaminated with whipworm eggs. When the eggs hatch inside the body, the whipworm sticks inside the wall of the large intestine.
Whipworm is found throughout the world, especially in countries with warm, humid climates. Some outbreaks have been traced to contaminated vegetables (believed to be due to soil contamination).
Symptoms range from mild to severe. Sometimes, there are no symptoms. A severe infection may cause:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Fecal incontinence (during sleep)
- Rectal prolapse (the rectum pushes out of the anus)
Exams and Tests
A stool ova and parasites exam reveals the presence of whipworm eggs.
Mebendazole taken by mouth for 3 days is commonly prescribed when the infection causes symptoms. A different anti-worm medicine may also be prescribed.
Full recovery is expected with treatment.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Seek medical attention if you or your child develop bloody diarrhea. In addition to whipworm, many other infections and illnesses can cause similar symptoms.
Improved facilities for feces disposal have decreased the incidence of whipworm.
Always wash your hands before handling food. Thoroughly washing food may also help prevent this condition.
Diemert DJ. Intestinal nematode infections. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 365.
Maguire JH. Intestinal nematodes (roundworms). In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 288.
Review Date: 12/7/2014
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.