trichinosis [key], parasitic disease caused by the roundworm Trichinella spiralis. It follows the eating of raw or inadequately cooked meat, especially pork. The larvae are released, reach maturity, and mate in the intestines, the females producing live larvae. The parasites are then carried from the gastrointestinal tract by the bloodstream to various muscles, where they become encysted. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of the adult population of the United States suffers from trichinosis at some time. In many people the disease exhibits no symptoms and is discovered only at autopsy. In others it causes diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms as the worms multiply in the digestive tract. When the larvae circulate through the bloodstream, the patient experiences edema, irregular fever, profuse sweating, muscle soreness and pain, and prostration. There may be involvement of the central nervous system, heart, and lungs; death occurs in about 5% of clinical cases. Once the larvae have imbedded themselves in the muscle tissue, the cysts usually become calcified; however, the infestation usually causes no further symptoms except fatigue and vague muscular pains. There is no specific treatment.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pathology