Nodular dermatosis produced by the growth of guinea worm, in the subcutaneous tissue of mammals, is known as dracunculiasis or guinea worm disease (GWD). The upcoming transitions provide in-depth information about this ailment.
Possibly the largest tissue parasite to affect human beings, guinea worm or Dracunculus medinensis, is a very thin and long roundworm that can grow up to 3 feet in length. The larvae of this parasite is found in stagnant pools, shallow ponds, and exposed wells. It infects people who drink or use unsafe or contaminated water. The disease causes a painful, burning sensation on the lower limb, as the female worms usually form a blister.
Guinea Worm Infection in Humans
GWD was previously widespread around the world, especially in the dry and tropical areas. These days it is no longer prevalent in Asia, although some cases may be found in the rural areas of Rajasthan (India). It has been found to be endemic among humans in only four countries in Africa. Around 32,000 cases were reported in 2003, which is a less number in comparison to the millions that were previously reported. Nearly 60% of the cases, in recent times, were found in Sudan where years of warfare and displacement of local population has not lead to the maintainence of proper water hygiene.
- The contagion is not fatal, but is extremely painful with the patient suffering from general swelling, blisters, and open sores.
- In some cases, the infection can lead to more debilitating conditions and permanent scars. The patient usually cannot carry out any of his/her usual activities for over 3 months. So, this also leads to an economic loss.
- Infection takes place by the consumption of unfiltered water containing small crustaceans which are infected with the worm larvae. After ingestion, the crustaceans die and release the stage 3 larvae, which then penetrate the host’s intestinal wall and enter into the abdominal cavity.
- After maturation and mating, the adult male worms die, and a year after mating the female worms migrate in the subcutaneous tissues of the skin.
- The worm usually emerges from the sole or ankle, but it can also come out from any other body part. A blister is formed on the skin which perforates to let the worm come out.
- It can take up to 2 months for the worm to come out of the concealment, and during this time the affected person bears a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. This renders him/her unfit to carry out any sort of work.
- When the worm perforates the skin and starts emerging out, a common tendency is to immerse that part of the body in water to relieve the pain.
- Unfortunately, the lesion, when it comes in contact with water, the female worm comes out and releases her stage 1 larvae.
- These larvae are then ingested by small crustaceans, and after about 2 weeks, the stage 3 larvae become epidemic.
The infection is detected when the worm starts emerging out. Usually, before this, the infected person suffers from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and high fever. This is due to the chemicals that the worm releases inside the body. However, this happens only after the worm has been in the body for over a year.
- Guinea worm infection can be combated by maintaining a proper hygiene. Water should be boiled and filtered before use.
- Contaminated water should be avoided at all costs. Digging bore wells with pumps and wells with enclosed copings can also prevent the disease.
- Proper education regarding hygiene should be imparted in rural and backward areas. People with GWD should be kept away from drinking water sources.
- Chemical water treatment to destroy the guinea worm larvae is also immensely beneficial. People traveling to areas known for infection, should remember to use filtered water for drinking, bathing, and brushing teeth.
There is as such no cure for this ailment. It is possible to remove the worm surgically, but the most common cure is to wrap the emerging worm around a piece of stick until the whole worm comes out. Care should be taken to ensure that it is not killed or perforated, as this can lead to additional complications.
Many times, a single person can be affected by not one, but several worms. If you have just recovered from a guinea worm infection, it is important to be extremely careful as there are high chances that you may get infected again. Therefore, prevention is the best possible treatment for this ailment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.