Monday, August 15, 2011

Name That Disease #6

Can you name this disease? It's a bit nasty!

Image is copyright free from Wikimedia Commons.

This human disease that is caused by a nematode worm called the guinea worm. The disease is known as Dracunculiasis or guinea worm disease. It is incredibly painful, which is why it has earned the nickname of the "fiery serpent." The transmission of this parasite is fascinating, beginning with someone drinking unfiltered water. Tiny crustaceans called copepods carry the larvae of the guinea worm, and when ingested the larvae are released. They make their way to the abdominal cavity, mature, and mate. The gravid adults females then migrate downward and form a blister, usually on the lower leg or foot, which is incredibly painful. When the blister bursts, the affected individuals will try to cool the burning by plunging their feet into water. That is when the female worms appear and lay their eggs in the water, to begin the cycle again.

There is only one treatment, which is pictured in the above image. When the worm appears it is wound around a stick and slowly pulled out. If you pull too fast, however, the nearly three-foot-long worms will break and thus they have to be slowly eased out. This can take weeks. The treatment is so age-old that there is speculation that the medical symbol of the staff and serpent may in fact be connected with the treatment.

This painful parasite can easily become a thing of the past by the implementation of a simple water filter fine enough to strain out the copepods.

Here's a video on the guinea worm for those who have strong stomachs:

The copepods are refereed to as "cyclops" because they only have one prominent eye.

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