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What is an Antiparasitic?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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An antiparasitic is medicine designed to eradicate infections of parasites on or in human or animal bodies. Some of these are well-known and don’t need prescriptions. Lice shampoos can easily be purchased in over the counter formulations and applied topically. Yet an antiparasitic drug can be stronger and might come in oral formulations to kill parasite infestations that are internal. These may be prescribed, and there are different medications suited to different types of parasites.

Many antiparasitics are used to treat different forms of internal worm infestations. Worm infestations might either occur as a result of ingestion or through things like bites from mosquitoes. Antinematodes are one group that can address infection with things like pinworms, tapeworms, roundworms or Filaria. Some of these medicines, such as pyrantel pamoate or mebendazole, will work with most nematodes or worms, and other medicines are best used with just a few types of parasites.

A few infections, especially of parasites like tapeworm could require more specific treatment with a separate antiparasitic class. Both praziquantel and niclosamide are called anticestodes. These target tapeworm, which are technically nematodes.

Some medicines treat parasitic infections caused by protozoa that enter the body. One of the most familiar protozoan infections is Giardia. An antiprotozoal like tinidazole may be prescribed for treatment.

Another antiparasitic class is made up of medicines used to treat amoebic infection. These sometimes are classed under different names. Occasionally they may be called antibacterials or antifungals, depending on type of drug being discussed.

Given the variety of antiparasitic types available, it is usually difficult to discuss things like side effects or treatment length. Some people might need extensive treatment if an infection is severe and hard to eliminate. Others could only need treatment for a few weeks. A simple infection of pinworms might mean taking a few pills over a two-week period. Provided this is accompanied by good hygiene, the infection is likely to resolve.

The complex nature of parasitic infections means observing a few rules when taking an antiparasitic. Just as with antibiotics, people are urged to completely finish medicine as directed by a doctor, and to not stop treatment even if they start to feel better. It’s possible for an infection to rebound without completing prescribed medications. Some infections can also be tenacious, and it may be necessary to extend treatment in certain instances or to switch medicines.

Humans are susceptible to certain parasites and occasionally things like hygiene play no role in getting parasitic infections. Getting a mosquito bite or acquiring lice usually says nothing about a person’s basic hygiene. In other cases, hygiene and food and water safety can prevent some infections, avoiding need to take an antiparasitic. People are advised to drink safe water, to always wash hands using restrooms, and to thoroughly cook meat. These preventatives may save people infection with many worm species, and different amoebic and protozoan species.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon92829 — On Jun 30, 2010

i have been unable to find the right dosage and treatment for tapeworm and hookworm. I don't have medical insurance and I need to know. I have purchased Vermox from China in 500mg tabs and don't know how to effectively take them. Please give me a cluee

Well i have been trying to get this info for over a year and it's horrible how ignorance abounds. I don't have health care and even if i did it most likely would not help as american doctors are pretty much oblivious.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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