Roundworm Characteristics

Roundworms generally invade body tissues and the digestive system.
Roundworms generally invade body tissues and the digestive system. (Image: Duncan Smith/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Roundworms are parasites that can infect humans and pets. There are several different types of roundworms that can range in length from 1 mm to 1 m. Different species of worms lead to a variety of infections with a host of symptoms. Though there are different types of roundworms, they do share some similar roundworm characteristics.


Roundworms have a thin, round body that is similar to that of an earthworm. Unlike earthworms, the body of the roundworm is not segmented. Roundworms lack many of the common systems that are found in other animals such as the respiratory, cardiovascular and skeletal systems. Roundworms do, however, have a digestive system that runs the entire length of their body.


Free-living roundworms are found in almost any type of marine habitat, including hot springs and deep ocean trenches. Roundworms also live in freshwater systems and generally find homes near the roots of plants and in sediment. Because of their parasitic nature, roundworms can also live off their host. Hosts can be humans or animals. Parasitic roundworms generally find homes in the tissues and digestive systems of their host.

Mode of Infection

Roundworms generally enter the human body as eggs and then hatch into larvae. They mature into the full roundworms that are known to cause complications and infection. Consuming contaminated food, touching the mouth with unsanitary hands and failing to maintain proper hygiene all can lead to roundworm infection.


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are approximately 11 types of roundworm infection. Infections vary in the types of symptoms they produce. Itching, sores, rash, diarrhea, headaches, fever and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms that may be present with roundworm infection. Infection may be treated by dietary supplements, nutritional changes, medications or surgery, depending on the severity and specific type of roundworm.

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