Ancylostoma duodenale

Geographic Range

Human hookworms are found in tropical and subtropical regions between 30° north and south of the equator. Ancylostoma duodenale is found in the Mediterranean region, Southeast Asia, and scattered in the Southern Americas. (Beigal, et al., 2000; Changhua, et al., 1999; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000)


Along with its range of definitive hosts, Ancylostoma duodenale also has a range of paratenic hosts of canids and felids, where it may remain for intervals of time until it reaches the definitive host. In the paratenic host it may survive in the muscles where it is then transferred to humans via undercooked meat, including rabbit, lamb, beef, and pork. The eggs of Ancylostoma duodenale are still within the muscle and are ingested with the meat, allowing for the adults to develop within the intestinal tract.

Juveniles of the species reside in the warmer regions of the world where the soil is preferably humus and loose with reasonable water drainage and good aeration. Oxygen is necessary for the development of the eggs, whose metabolism is aerobic.

Hookworm eggs derive their nutrition from the host feces via absorption. Therefore they must live in areas with soils of neutral pHs and in shady areas, such as coffee, banana, and sugar plantations where the feces will remain intact long enough for them to develop into juveniles. They are extremely sensitive to sunlight, which can ultimately kill the juveniles. Juveniles are also sensitive to high salt concentrations and acidic pHs of soils.

After penetrating the skin, juveniles attach to blood vessels and begin to feed until reaching the adult stage. Adult females remain attached and the males detach to find their mates. Continual reinfection is promoted by repeated defecation by infected individuals in the same locals where they were originally infected. This may even lead to epidemics of Ancylostoma duodenale infections in arid regions of the world. (Chilton and Gasser, 1999; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000)

Physical Description

Ancylostoma duodenale is an S-shaped worm because of its flexure at the frontal end. The worm is pinkish-white. Adult male hookworms range in size from 8-11 mm long, whereas adult females range in size from 10-13 mm long. This species is dimorphic, with the males having bursa characteristics and needle-like spicules with small tips, which are distally fused. Females have a vulva located approximately one-third of the body length from the posterior end. Both male and female hookworms have two powerful ventral teeth in the adult forms of the parasite, one along each side of the buccal capsule; smaller pairs of teeth are located deeper in the capsule.

Hookworm eggs have a thin shell and the larvae possess amphids, large paired sensilla on each side of the mouth, which allow them to locate their host. The larvae are rod-shaped and are about 0.004 cm long. (Ashton, et al., 1999; Carson-DeWitt, 1999; D.W., 1980; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000; Williams, 1969)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range length
    8 to 13 mm
    0.31 to 0.51 in


The hookworm life cycle is composed of seven steps, which are as follows. First, the Ancylostoma duodenale eggs are passed into the feces of the host. Second, the embryo passes via and develops within the feces. The first stage rhabditiform juvenile then hatches once the egg is outside of the host. Next, the filariform or infective juvenile develops after two molts. This stage is characterized by an arrest in development until a new host is reached. Humans may be infected via the oral cavity by ingestion of undercooked meat. Filiform juveniles infect by directly penetrating the skin of the host, usually a human. Fifth, the juveniles then migrate through the circulatory system until they reach the lungs. Sixth, once they have reached the lungs, the juveniles leave the circulatory system by finding their way into the alveoli and then migrating to the small intestine via the trachea. It takes about 5-6 weeks for the hookworm to reach the small intestine from the lungs. Finally, the adult worms develop in the small intestine where they mate, and produce eggs that are sent off in the feces of the host to begin the process once more. Adults form about 6 weeks after the initial infection.

A possible alternate root of infection may occur if juveniles are swallowed and develop normally without moving into the lungs. However, this is a very rare occurrence. (Beigal, et al., 2000; D.W., 1980; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000)


Both males and females attach to the intestinal walls during their life span, but the male leaves at one point to search for a female to mate with. The average female life span is about one year, during which it may lay from 10,000-30,000 eggs a day during its adult life.

Females may produce a phermomone to attract males. The male coils around a female with his curved area over the female genital pore. The gubernaculum, made of cuticle tissue, guides spicules which extend through the cloaca and anus. Males use spicules to hold the female during copulation. Nematode sperm are amoeboid-like and lack flagella. (Barnes, 1987; Beigal, et al., 2000; D.W., 1980; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000)

There is no parental investment beyond egg laying.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning


The juvenile stages of the parasite move around in the outside environment prior to locating the host. The adult worms can move from one place to another along the intestine once inside of the host, thus increasing blood loss through the wounds that are left behind in the intestinal linings.

The larvae of the infective stage are usually stationary, until they sense vibrations in the soil as heat or carbon dioxide. They use environmental signals to flag their host and prepare for ingestion during their third larval stage. They do so by using neurons with dendritic processes that resemble cilia, which are mechanosensory, thermosensory and chemosensory. Adult human hookworms move by flowing within the bloodstream from one local to another and then attach to the intestinal walls where they feed. (Ashton, et al., 1999; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000; Williams, 1969)

Communication and Perception

The larvae of the infective stage are usually stationary, until they sense vibrations in the soil as heat or carbon dioxide. They use environmental signals to flag their host and prepare for ingestion during their third larval stage. They do so by using neurons with dendritic processes that resemble cilia, which are mechanosensory, thermosensory and chemosensory. (Ashton, et al., 1999; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000; Williams, 1969)

Food Habits

The definitive host is where the parasite reaches sexual maturity. Humans are the definitive hosts of Ancylostoma duodenale. Recent research shows that other definitive hosts may exist because of the ability to cross-infect different hosts. For example, Ancylostoma duodenale posses the ability to cross-infect from humans to canines, whereas its close relative, Ancylostoma caninum, cannot cross-infect to humans.

Hookworm eggs gain nutrition via the host feces. After penetrating the skin, juveniles attach to blood vessels and begin to feed.

The larval stage is free-living where there is independent existence in the soil. They then penetrate the host's skin by the secretion of digestive enzymes that dissolve the skin.

Young and adult worms feed on blood from the walls of the host's intestine by attaching to the intestinal lining via their sharp buccal cavity teeth, which they also use to break open small blood vessels so that they can suck the blood from them. Ancylostoma duodenale possess anticoagulant substances that are secreted to prevent blood clotting to the blood flowing from the wound. (Brinksworth, et al., 2000; Chilton and Gasser, 1999; D.W., 1980; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000)

  • Animal Foods
  • blood
  • body fluids
  • Other Foods
  • dung


These parasites are probably not preyed on directly, but are ingested from host to host. Larval mortality is high as most of the parasites do not reach appropriate hosts.

Ecosystem Roles

Ancylostoma duodenale mainly infects humans but paratenic hosts include canids and felids, where it may remain for intervals of time until it reaches the definitive host.

Species Used as Host

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Infected individuals are susceptible to malnutrition, protein and iron drain from the diet. Other effects include stunted growth and below-average intelligence in developing children, lowered antibody response to infectious agents, and anemia due to heavy blood loss and iron-deficiency among other side-effects. In some cases, heavy infestations may lead to fatalities because of infection of other worms or malaria as well as excess blood loss and other types of complications. Infants were recently recognized in the field of public health as being vulnerable. Hookworm disease is more prevalent in females than males.

Tourists visiting areas where local sanitation is a problem should be careful of infestation, especially in regions with humid climates.

Treatment is fairly simple with Mebendazole, Albendazole, and Levamisole. The use of dietary supplementation is important to compensate for the loss in nutrients. (Beigal, et al., 2000; Bennett and Guyatt, 2000; Changhua, et al., 1999; Roberts and Janovy Jr., 2000; Sen-Hai, et al., 1995)


Renee Sherman Mulcrone (editor).

Nagla Fetouh (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Teresa Friedrich (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


(as keyword in perception channel section) This animal has a special ability to detect heat from other organisms in its environment.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


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Barnes, R. 1987. Invertebrate Zoology. Orlando, Florida: Dryden Press.

Beigal, Y., Z. Greenburg, I. Ostfeld. 2000. Letting the Patient off the Hook. The New England Journal of Medicine, 342(22): 1658-1661.

Bennett, A., H. Guyatt. 2000. Reducing intestinal nematode infection: efficacy of albendazole and mebendazole (Review). Parasitology Today, 16: 71-4.

Brinksworth, R., S. Harrop, P. Prociv, P. Brindley. 2000. Host specificity in blood feeding parasties: a defining contribution by haemoglobin-degrading enzymes?. International Journal for Parasitology, 30: 785-790.

Carson-DeWitt, R. 1999. Pp. 1475 in Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 1st Edition. U.S.: Gale Research, Inc..

Changhua, L., Z. Xiaorong, Q. Dongchuan, X. Shuhua, P. Hotez. 1999. Epidemiology of human hookworm infections among adult villagers in Hejiang and Santai Counties, Sichuan Province, China. Acta Tropica, 73: 243-249.

Chilton, N., R. Gasser. 1999. Sequence differences in the internal transcribed spacers of DNA among four species of hookworm. International Journal for Parasitology, 29: 1971-1977.

D.W., 1980. The Encyclopedia of the Animal World, Vol.5. U.S.: Bay Books.

Roberts, L., J. Janovy Jr.. 2000. Foundations for Parasitology. Boston: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc..

Sen-Hai, Y., J. Ze-Xiao, X. Long-Qi. 1995. Infantile Worm disease in China. Acta Tropica, 59: 265-270.

Williams, G. 1969. The Plague Killers. U.S.: Charles Scribner's Sons.