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Testing for Parasites
Stool samples help physicians diagnose diseases and make determinations about their patients’ health. Samples can especially provide useful information for gastrointestinal system problems and are used to test for allergies, bleeding and infection, as well as digestive diseases. Testing for bacteria and parasite infections is the most common reason to take and test a stool sample, according to the Mayo Clinic1. Your health care provider may look for ova parasites in stool samples if you’ve had extended problems with diarrhea or other intestinal issues. This is why a stool or fecal exam is also called an ova and parasite test, according to the Mayo Clinic1. It can help a medical professional not only discover parasites but also their ova, which may be causing symptoms like abdominal cramping and bloating, as well as diarrhea.
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It might be necessary for your physician to collect more than one stool sample to successfully identify parasites, says the Mayo Clinic1. Stool smears are examined under a microscope for parasite eggs, as well as parasites, so that an individual can be properly diagnosed and treated for infestation, according to the KidsHealth website2. Your healthcare provider may want to check right away for blood in a stool sample, because it produces quicker results; however, you will likely be given a test you can do at home that contains chemicals to preserve parasites.
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Although, parasites are usually identified from the first stool sample, you may have to take as many as three samples at home, and your health care provider might ask you to take samples from different bowel movements, according to the KidsHealth website2. Typically, you’ll get clear stool sample collection directions from your health care provider, but you can get ready by thinking ahead about what you’ll need to do to prepare.
You can properly prepare for stool collection at home by setting out everything you’ll need, including latex gloves. Avoid contaminating a stool sample with urine or letting it touch the toilet, to keep from having to redo the procedure2. Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Get the stool sample to your doctor or lab as soon as possible, for best results. If you can’t get it there right away, keep the sample refrigerated. Typically stool sample results take three to four days, but it could take longer.
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Finding ova parasites in stool samples can help your physician determine if you have intestinal parasites common to North America, such as hookworms – Necator americanus; pinworms – Enterobius vermicularis; protozoa – Entamoeba histolytica and Giardia lamblia; roundworms – Ascaris lumbricoides; tapeworms – Diphyllobothrium latum, Taenia saginata or Taenia solium; and whipworm – Trichuris trichiura, according to Healthline4.
If you’ve become ill after traveling abroad, your health care provider might check for other parasites, such as cryptosporidium, dracunculus medinensis. Most parasites cause intestinal problems, but some parasites, like the dracunculus medinensis, are larvae that infect the skin and cause ulcerations, as well as disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention3.
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1. Blastocystis Hominis Infection
2. KidsHealth: Stool Tests
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parasites
4. Healthline: Stool Ova & Parasites Test