Food poisoning: Accidental consumption of worms, is it serious?

Presse Santé

One can accidentally eat worms if one eats spoiled food contaminated with fly larvae. Accidental ingestion of worms is usually not a cause for concern, but can sometimes lead to health complications such as bacterial poisoning.

The worm is a larva of the common housefly. The worms are about 3 to 12 millimeters long, have no legs and are white or cream in color. An adult female housefly can lay up to 130 eggs at a time, and each develops a single larva. Flies lay eggs in decomposing organic matter, such as spoiled food and animal waste, which serve as food for developing larvae.

In this article, we will examine some of the potential health effects of eating worms and explain what to do and when to seek medical attention after accidentally eating worms. We also look at whether people eat worms intentionally and whether this practice is safe.

Bacterial poisoning

Food poisoning is a potential risk of eating worms. Flies can visit various food sources during the day and can transmit harmful bacteria that they obtain from human or animal waste. They can transmit these bacteria to the food that people eat.
Larvae that develop in contaminated food can eat these bacteria. People who eat these contaminated foods or larvae are also exposed to bacteria and can get sick.

Salmonella and Escherichia coli are examples of bacteria that flies and worms can transmit to humans.


Salmonella is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. Symptoms of salmonella infection may include:

abdominal cramps
nausea and vomiting
Symptoms usually appear between 12 and 72 hours after ingestion of the bacteria and the disease usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

People with salmonella poisoning often recover without treatment. However, frequent vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration and sometimes hospitalization. It is therefore important that people with salmonella poisoning drink enough fluids, especially clear broths and fruit juices, to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.

E. coli poisoning

There are many different strains of E. coli. Although most strains are harmless, some can make a person very sick.

Symptoms of E. coli infection may include the following:

stomach cramps
diarrhea, which may include blood
mild fever, usually less than 101 ° F

These symptoms usually appear between days 1 and 10 after ingestion of the bacteria and can last for 5 to 7 days. The severity of E. coli infection can range from very mild to severe and can sometimes be life-threatening. As with salmonella poisoning, it is essential to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Intestinal myiasis

Myiasis occurs when a person is infested with fly larvae. The larvae live on or within humans and survive by feeding on their tissues.
Intestinal myiasis is a type of myiasis that can occur when a person eats larvae that survive inside the gastrointestinal tract. Some people with intestinal myiasis have no symptoms and realize that they become infected only after they notice the larvae in the stool.

However, the symptoms of intestinal myiasis may be as follows

abdominal pain
nausea and vomiting
itching in the anus
rectal bleeding

Myiasis is not common in Europe and tends to occur mainly in tropical and subtropical countries, including some countries in Africa and South America. However, when traveling to these countries, he can become infected with myiasis.

What to do ?

Accidental ingestion of worms usually does not cause any permanent damage. However, if a person eats worms while eating spoiled food, he is in danger of food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning can range from very mild to severe and can sometimes last for several days.

People at higher risk of food poisoning include:

little children
older adults
people with a weakened immune system, such as people undergoing organ transplants.

It is essential that people who suffer from severe vomiting and diarrhea due to food poisoning drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

When to consult a doctor

The person should see a doctor if any of the following symptoms occur after ingesting the worms:

visible larvae in stool
persistent abdominal pain
symptoms of bacterial poisoning that worsen or do not improve
diarrhea lasting more than 3 days
diarrhea and fever
bloody stool
signs of dehydration
severe or persistent vomiting

Do people intentionally eat worms?

In some countries, it is not uncommon to eat insects. Many people in countries outside Europe and North America eat insects. Researchers estimate that there are almost 2,000 species of edible insects. In addition to the insects themselves, the eggs and larvae of some species are also edible.

Casu Marzu is a Sardinian cheese that contains thousands of worms. At the beginning of cheese production, the cheese maker removes the outer rind, which encourages the flies to enter and load the eggs. The larvae eat rotten cheese for several months. Larvae droppings give the cheese its unique, pungent taste.

Due to the health risks of consuming live worms, the European Food Safety Authority has banned the sale of marza time. However, a small number of Sardinian farmers continue to produce this cheese for personal consumption.

Can worms be eaten safely?

Worms are particularly high in protein and fat. That is why scientists are currently studying the possibilities of cultivating, harvesting and processing worms for human consumption. They designed heating, drying and microwave cooking of the larvae to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. However, there is currently no guaranteed and risk-free way to consume the worms safely.


For most people living in milder climates, accidental ingestion of worms is unlikely to cause harm. People may suffer from temporary food poisoning after eating either contaminated worms or spoiled food that contains them. However, most cases of food poisoning go away without treatment after a few days. If severe or disturbing symptoms occur after accidental ingestion of worms, it is advisable to consult a doctor.


Caparros Megido, R., et al. (2014). Acceptance of edible insects by Belgian consumers: A promising approach to the development of entomophagy [Abstract].

Chapter 6: Housefly. (nd).

Daeschlein, G., et al. (2015). Worms as a potential vector of pathogen transmission and implications for infection control in waste management.

* Presse Santé strives to impart health knowledge in a language accessible to all. IN NO EVENT can the information provided replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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