March 28, 2018

WELL, GOOD: Nasty, 3ft-long parasitic worms are on the cusp of being wiped from the planet.

It all starts with a sip of water that’s contaminated with the worm’s larvae. Inside a human host, the larvae punch through the digestive tract, entering into the body cavity to quietly grow. Within a few months, the male and female worms meet and mate. Then the males die off. The surviving female worms mature, reaching 60 to 100 centimeters (2 to 3 feet), and migrate into the victim’s muscles. About 10 to 14 months after that tainted drink, the female worms burn through the skin by oozing acid, creating a searing blister. This can happen anywhere in the body, but it’s usually in the legs or feet.

Not coincidentally, dunking the blister in water eases the pain—and gives the female worm the opportunity to burst out of the wound and spew a milky slurry containing millions of larvae, which starts the cycle all over again. From there, the victim can slowly try to pull the worm out. But yanking too quickly could break the thin parasite (measuring only 1 to 2 mm wide), which could cause an infection. Instead, it has to be slowly extracted, usually by winding the end around a piece of gauze or twig and turning it a few times each day. The process often takes weeks.

The Carter Center deserves credit for doing a lot of good work towards wiping these things out.

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