The branch of zoology responsible for the study of worms, in general, is called Helminthology. The study refers to those worms gathered under the phylum of the flatworms, or even the asquelmintos – more specifically to the study of parasitic worms. However, it also involves studying the interaction between helminths and their hosts, so it is an ecological-zoological science and a veterinary-biomedical science.
Medical parasitology studies some parasitic worms, essentially. They are: Schistoma mansoni, Taenia sollium, Taenia saginata, Ascaris lumbricoids, Trichuris trichiura, Enterobius vermiculares, Ancylostoma brasiliensi, Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma americanus, Necatos americanus and Strongiloides stercoralis.
The study, founded in the 17th century by Italian physician, naturalist and physiologist Francesco Redi, has its name derived from the Greek helminthos which means worm, and logos which means study. According to Lineu, 1758, the definition of worms was used to define all metazoan animals with elongated bodies and devoid of appendages. This can involve both flat worms and smooth cylindrical or segmented cylindrical ones. Helminths are divided into three phyla: platyhelminthes, Aschelminthes, Acanthocephala.
What is the importance of this area of study?
This science is very important, as some worms parasitize the human body, being responsible for the development of diseases in hosts. It is essential that the organism, life cycle and penetration and performance in the human body are known, as this helps in the process of treatment and development of drugs to combat the diseases caused by them.
However, it is not only worms that parasitize humans that are studied, but also those that have animals as hosts. This is also important for maintaining health and improving the treatment of domestic animals and animals for food, through the supply of meat.
In the Ebers papyrus, dating from 1500 BC, there were already records of diseases caused by helminths – parasitic worms – where the descriptions of tapeworms and worms can be recognized.
Among the most common diseases studied, we find cysticercosis that is human and bovine, human teniasis, cenurosis in sheep, hepatic dematosis in domestic ruminants, hydatiosis in humans, ruminants and pigs, gastrointestinal and pulmonary strongylosis in horses, hookworm in dogs – mainly young -, spirocercosis in dogs, swine trichinosis – can be transmitted to man, these being just a few examples of a huge number of diseases caused by helminths.