There are about 20 different species of parasites that are known to cause illness in humans from contaminated food or water.
They range in size from microscopic single-celled organisms known as protozoa to visible worms known as helminths. But, what they all have in common is that they derive their nourishment from other living organisms known as host organisms.
When the parasites live and reproduce in the tissues and organs of animal and human hosts they can then be excreted in feces and go on to infect other individuals. There is a hard shell covering to some varieties of protozoa that permit them to survive for lengthy periods of time in water waiting to infect another host.
Examples of protozoan parasites include Cyclospora, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. A well-known foodborne helminth is Trichinella, an intestinal roundworm.
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