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Two pinworms, captured on emergence from the anus. Markings are 1 mm apart
Two pinworms, captured on emergence from the anus. Markings are 1 mm apart
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Nematoda
Class: Secernentea
Order: Rhabditida
Family: Oxyuridae
Genus: Enterobius

The pinworm (Genus Enterobius) is a parasitic roundworm of the phylum Nematoda.

Forms of worm

The best known is the human pinworm, also known as the threadworms Enterobius vermicularis and the more recently discovered Enterobius gregorii. The adult pinworm male is 1–4  mm in length, while the adult female is 8–13 mm and possess the long, pin-shaped posterior end for which the worm is named. The human pinworm is commonly found in children.


The pinworm lives in the lower part of the small intestine, and the upper part of the colon. It is found worldwide and causes the common infection enterobiasis in humans. Unlike many other intestinal parasites, the pinworm does not usually enter the bloodstream or any other organs besides the intestines. Only in rare cases disoriented pinworms can be found in the vagina, and even more rarely in the uterus, fallopian tubes, liver and peritoneum; but the worms cannot survive long in these places.


Pinworm eggs are easily seen under the microscope.
Pinworm eggs are easily seen under the microscope.

After mating, the male dies. The female migrates to the anus and emerges, usually during the night, to deposit about 10,000 to 20,000 eggs in the perianal area (around the anus). It then secretes a substance that causes a very strong itching sensation, inciting the host to scratch the area and thus transfer some of the eggs to the fingers. Eggs can also be transferred to cloth, toys and the bathtub. Once ingested orally, the larvae hatch and migrate back to the intestine, growing to maturity in 30-45 days. The eggs can survive from 2 to 3 weeks on their own outside of the human body. It is also in some cases where the larva will hatch around the skin of the anus and travel back inside the anus, up the rectum and back into the intestines where it matures. (SOURCES: Rudolph's Pediatrics - 21st Ed. 2003; Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment - 45th Ed. 2006)


Except for itching, pinworm infestation does not usually cause any damage to the body. Sleep disturbance may arise from the itching or crawling sensations. Some case reports suggest that severe infestation may be associated with an increased risk for appendicitis. There is also some evidence of an association between enterobiasis and diminished zinc levels.


Diagnosis is often made clinically by observing the female worm (or many worms) in the peri-anal region, but can also be made using the "scotch-tape" test, in the course of which the sticky side of a strip of cellophane tape is pressed against the peri-anal skin, then examined under a microscope for pinworm eggs.


Anti-pinworm drugs such as Albenza ( albendazole) or Vermox ( mebendazole) are commonly used to treat pinworms. It is not a necessity to visit a doctor to get these drugs, as they are commonly available as over the counter medications; ask a pharmacist for medicines to treat pinworms (or threadworms as they are known in the UK). These medicines kill the pinworms 95% of the time, but do not kill the eggs. The person being treated may have to return after a time of two weeks to be retreated. Another precaution towards treating the eradication of pinworms is to wash hands before eating (to prevent any pinworm eggs under fingernails from being ingested) and to wash any area or clothes that have touched or been in the vicinity of the infected areas. Treating the entire family is often necessary for cure.

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