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A little known parasite is common on playgrounds

Toxocara larvae.
Toxocara larvae. Photo: Flukeman / Wikipedia

About 16 million people in the U.S. may have come into contact with Toxocara, an overlooked intestinal parasite that can cause developmental delays, breathing and vision problems, per The New York Times.

Why it matters: The common parasite can be found in playgrounds but there's a lack of research and funding to better understand it, The Times Laura Beil reports. The severity of the risk is unknown, and poor and minority populations are disproportionately affected, according to a 2017 report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

How it happens: The roundworms' eggs, carried by stray cats and dogs, are left in playgrounds and sand boxes via the animals' feces. Children may then be exposed to them. Once ingested by humans, the eggs hatch inside the body and the parasite can enter the brain.

Key quote: "Nobody is dying here," Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told The Times, “but it is potentially causing developmental delays that are affecting quality of life, and the economic impact is far greater. It could trap children in poverty.”