Tropical Terrors

A brief review of tropical diseases

Dracunculiasis - Guinea Worm

Guinea worm disease results from infection with Dracunculus medinensis, a nematode parasite related to the filarial parasites which cause elephantiasis. The disease is obtained by ingestion of water containing infective "cyclopoid copepods" (water fleas) - either while swimming or as drinking water. The "cyclops" water flea is digested, releasing the parasite larvae, which bore through the intestinal wall into the abdominal cavity, where they hang out for awhile. They then migrate into the connective tissue under the skin, and move about. Mating occurs after about three months. The male dies, and the female keeps growing, reaching up to 30 inches in length! They may be found under the skin anywhere, but usually in the legs, or even in the scrotum.

Current Status of the Disease:

Ninety-nine percent of the cases of guinea worm reported to the WHO occur in areas south of the Sahara, primarily in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. India had 9 cases reported in 1996. This is NOT a disease the casual traveler needs to lose sleep over!


Below is a video by the Carter Center. Former President Jimmy Carter has led a hugely successful effort to eradicate the guinea worm.



You can help the Carter Center fight tropical diseases.