A Parasitic Worm That Went Extinct May Have Recently Resurfaced

The Guinea worm, which appeared to be extinct, may have just resurfaced in Vietnam.

On June 7, at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, Vietnam, a patient checked in with painful skin lesions on his legs. These wounds were also spreading to his arms. After they examined him, the doctors took five worms out of his hands, some of which were over 23 inches long.

The doctors at the hospital were surprised because these worms were part of a species, known as Guinea worms, that was supposed to be almost extinct. They were mainly females, which settle under the skin. This parasite is ingested by drinking contaminated, mostly stagnant water.

Dracunculiasis disease

The ‘Dracunculus medinensis’ worm moves below the surface of the skin, mainly along the legs and feet. When it comes into contact with water, it pierces the skin to lay its eggs in the liquid. This disease is not usually fatal, but it can be painful. The infected patient may experience a severe burning sensation and fever.

The WHO is closely monitoring this worm species. Health programs have almost eradicated the worm, and in 2019, only 53 cases were identified, mainly in African countries. Expertise is being carried out to confirm that this was in fact the Guinea worm and not a parasite that resembles this species.

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