About Ascaris in Pigs

Key points

  • Ascaris suum is a parasite found in the intestines of pigs.
  • Humans can get Ascaris suum.
  • Your healthcare provider can prescribe medication to treat an Ascaris suum infection.

Overview

The adult Ascaris suum worm lives in the pig’s intestines. They pass their eggs in the pigs’ feces (manure). Infected pigs deposit eggs into the soil whenever they defecate (poop). The eggs require days to weeks in the environment to become infective. When people or pigs consume the infective eggs, they become infected with Ascaris suum. Ascaris suum is a very common parasite of pigs.

Symptoms

Symptoms in pigs

Many infected pigs do not show any symptoms. Heavily infected pigs may have symptoms including the following

  • Difficulty breathing, sometimes called "thumps"
  • Weight loss
  • Unthrifty (not strong or healthy)
  • Slow weight gain
  • Possibly passing whole worms in manure

Symptoms in people

Most infected people have only a few worms and may not have any symptoms. If you have symptoms, these may include

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stunted growth in children

Causes

People become infected with Ascaris suum when they consume soil containing infective eggs. This can happen when

  • People don't wash their hands thoroughly after handling pigs, cleaning pig pens, or handling pig manure; or
  • People consume fruits or vegetables grown in gardens fertilized with pig manure, or in soil where pigs were kept, and that have not been carefully cooked, washed, or peeled

People who raise pigs or use raw pig manure as fertilizer may be at risk for infection with Ascaris suum.

People cannot get Ascaris suum by eating pork or pork products because the eggs are not in the meat.

Prevention

  • Avoid contact with soil contaminated with pig feces, including soil fertilized with pig manure.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling pigs, cleaning pig pens, or handling pig manure, and always before handling food.
  • Teach children the importance of washing hands to prevent infection. Supervise children around pigs, ensuring that they do not put unwashed hands or other potentially contaminated objects in their mouths.
  • Wash, peel, or cook all raw vegetables and fruits before eating, particularly those grown in soil fertilized with pig manure.
  • If you own pigs, talk to your veterinarian about testing and treatment.

Ascaris suum eggs from pigs left in the soil can survive for up to 10 years. The eggs are very hardy and can survive harsh environmental conditions like freezing and extreme heat. It is virtually impossible to completely remove Ascaris suum eggs from the environment where an infected pig has been. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on preventing and controlling Ascaris suum in your pigs.

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider can take a stool (poop) sample and examine it for Ascaris eggs under a microscope. This is the only way to know if you have an ascariasis infection.

Your veterinarian can help diagnose and treat Ascaris suum in your pigs.

Treatment and recovery

Treatment

Your healthcare provider can prescribe medications to help your body get rid of parasitic worms. The medications, such as albendazole and mebendazole, are known as anthelmintic medications. Treatment lasts 1 – 3 days and is highly effective, regardless of the species of parasitic worm.

Your veterinarian can help diagnose and treat Ascaris suum in your pigs.