Pinworms (Enterobiasis)


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a) photo of a small clear worm. B) micrograph of cells shaped like pointed ovals.
(a) E. vermicularis are tiny nematodes commonly called pinworms. (b) This micrograph shows pinworm eggs.

Source: OpenStax Microbiology

OpenStax Microbiology

Enterobius vermicularis, commonly called pinworms, are tiny (2–13 mm) nematodes that cause enterobiasis. Of all helminthic infections, enterobiasis is the most common in the United States, affecting as many as one-third of American children. Although the signs and symptoms are generally mild, patients may experience abdominal pain and insomnia from itching of the perianal region, which frequently occurs at night when worms leave the anus to lay eggs. The itching contributes to transmission, as the disease is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. When an infected individual scratches the anal area, eggs may get under the fingernails and later be deposited near the individual’s mouth, causing reinfection, or on fomites, where they can be transferred to new hosts. After being ingested, the larvae hatch within the small intestine and then take up residence in the colon and develop into adults. From the colon, the female adult exits the body at night to lay eggs.

Infection is diagnosed in any of three ways. First, because the worms emerge at night to lay eggs, it is possible to inspect the perianal region for worms while an individual is asleep. An alternative is to use transparent tape to remove eggs from the area around the anus first thing in the morning for three days to yield eggs for microscopic examination. Finally, it may be possible to detect eggs through examination of samples from under the fingernails, where eggs may lodge due to scratching. Once diagnosis has been made, mebendazole, albendazole, and pyrantel pamoate are effective for treatment.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: