Although you probably don’t want to think about this there is no denying that everyone has at least one parasite living either in them or on them. This small fact is more than likely something you don’t want to agree with but, believe it or not, the human body has a huge number of parasites that love to feed off it. Take a look at these 6 parasites that could be inside your body right now.
1 – Guinea Worm
The guinea worm sounds like it should be something cute and furry but this could not be further from the truth. The guinea worm causes an infection named dracunculiasis which is every bit as terrifying as it sounds.
Dracunculiasis begins its life cycle in drinking water (especially where fleas gather) and is much more common in areas that have poor quality drinking water. Back in 1986 there were a whopping three and a half million reported cases of this infection you may want to remember that the next time you reach for a glass of water. The dracunculiasis infection stars with the consumption of water that is contaminated by fleas. The fleas are killed and destroyed by a person’s digestive acid but the larvae they carry is not. The larvae then hatches and finds its way into a body cavity where it sits and waits patiently for a mate to come along. This part will usually take about three months but once complete the females gets busy moving to the lower extremities of the body which is usually the feet. It even creates a burning sensation as it travels just on the off chance you don’t know it is there.
This is not even the worst part of this infection. Once the worm reaches its destination you will notice a blister appearing there. It will take about three days before it ruptures and reveals the worm in a similar way that the alien burst out the guy’s chest in the movie. Don’t start thinking that once the worm bursts out of your blister you will simply pull it out. Removing the worm is incredibly painful and in many cases even more painful than when the parasite is moving around your body.
Most people who are infected by this parasite live in poor countries and fail to seek medical assistance. The problem with this is that most people think it is a good idea to dip their blister in water which gives worm its chance to expel thousands more larvae. As you can imagine once a water supply is contaminated in a poor area infection can quickly and easily spread.
Thankfully many people are well educated about the Guinea worm and most cases only occur in parts of Africa making this one of the first parasitic diseases to be eradicated without the use of drugs or vaccines.
2 – Trypanosoma Brucei
Trypanosoma brucei is a protozoan organism which makes it microscopic in size. It is responsible for causing a disease which has several different scientific names but for the sake of simplicity we will use call it “sleeping sickness”.
Sleeping sickness may sound like it is something calm and peaceful but let us assure you it is not. In fact sleeping sickness is a really terrible disease which happens in two stages. The first stage provides the infected person with pleasures such as joint pain, headache, itching and a major swelling of the lymph nodes. The first stage finishes off with some cardiac and kidney dysfunction for good measure.
The second stage kicks in when the parasite invades your central nervous system which causes confusion, night-time insomnia, and bouts of fatigue. This can very often lead to death or coma but even if you are lucky and get through this any damage that has been done is irreversible at this point so there is a good chance you will wish you were dead.
The disease is currently an endemic and is nearly completely exclusive to Africa.
3 – Anisakis
Anisakis is another parasite on our list which is a worm. It has a complicated life cycle involving fish and other marine life and is passed on to humans through the consumption of raw meat such as sushi. This makes any infection from anisakis, anisakiasis most common in the parts of the world that a fans of eating raw fish, such as Japan, the Netherlands and many parts of South America.
The good news with this parasite is that it is not fatal. This is because the parasite cannot survive very long inside a human host and cannot transfer to someone else from within its human host. Just because something is not fatal does not mean it won’t be unpleasant. If you are unlucky enough to become infected with this parasite then you can look forward to symptoms such as enlarged liver, jaundice, vomiting, weakness of the muscles, increased heart rate, tingling of the skin and persistent headaches. All of this is if you happen to be lucky because if you are not then you can also look forward to a somewhat nasty bowel obstruction which will have you feeling a little backed up for a month.
Prevention of this parasite is relatively simple and is done by proper and careful food handling. The FDA recommends that when cooking fish it needs to be heated to at least sixty degrees Celsius or if you are storing fish then it should be frozen at minus twenty degrees Celsius for seven days.
4 – Gnathostoma Spinigerum
Gnathostoma spinigerum is yet another worm type parasite that is quite capable of making your life unpleasant. Like so many other worm parasites this bad boy begins it life cycle in fish but can just as easily be found in frogs or poultry which means there is a risk for anyone who eats any kind of meat uncooked. Having said that most people who eat uncooked meat is playing a game of Russian roulette anyway.
Once you consume the larvae they partake in what can only be described as a horrendous journey. First they will fly through the stomach to wherever they happen to land and hang out there for around three months. From here they then return to the gastric mucosa so they can mature for another six months and eventually lay their eggs. The eggs are then carried in your feces. It is from here that if they should find their way to fresh water that the cycle starts all over again.
The good news here is that this doesn’t occur in humans because it does not have a habitat that is survivable meaning the worm will die out sooner or later. This does not mean that the parasite won’t cause you problems if you consume it. Encephalitis, meningitis and hemorrhages are all possible side effects of this parasite and in severe cases there is also a good chance you will suffer from paralysis of the limbs and total loss of bladder control. The bad news here is that severe side effects are very common so bare this in mind the next time you are enjoying that suchi.
5 – Fasciola Hepatica
It is hardly a surprise that another entry on our list is another worm which is also known as the “common liver fluke.” Like everything else here this parasitic worm has a complex life cycle which starts with a freshwater snail. Humans and animals consume the parasite when they drink water that has being contaminated or eating water plants such as watercress.
Once this parasite is inside you the immature flukes make quick contact with the body’s acidic environment and waste no time burrowing into the intestinal lining before finding their way to the liver. It is in the liver that it begins to feed and lays down many thousands of eggs which in tern causes anemia. Since this parasite can be treated with simple medication it may initlally seem not that bad there are unfortunate consequences for most who take on this parasite.
The parasite causes liver damage can be made a lot worse if the original contaminant also contains clostridium novyi bacteria spores. Yes, the same bacteria spores that are found in feces and soil. These spores are usually activated due to low-oxygen conditions that are present in the body and lead to “black disease”. Black disease is well known to cause kidney damage and even death in some cases.
6 – Chigoe Flea
The chigoe flea is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a tiny flea which is only one millimetre in length and is currently the smallest known flea in the world.
The chigoe flea is commonly found in many tropical climates and the female of its species will burrow in the feet of mammals and stay there for around two weeks. During this period it develops its eggs and causes nothing more than a mild irritation but once those two weeks are over the flea creates a one centimetre blister with a small black dot slap bang in the middle. If you had not guessed that black dot actually contains several of the fleas reproductive organs and limbs. While the flea goes about feeding off the blood of its host is soon lays several dozen eggs through that black dot of the blister.
Soon the flea will die when the hosts affected skin is removed. This flea type parasite is considered minor when compared to others. It causes nothing more than mild nerve damage should its size increase too much. It is worth noting that complications can occur from even the mildest of infections should they not be treated properly and quickly.