About guinea-worm disease
For further development, these larvae need to be ingested by suitable species of voracious predatory crustacean, Cyclops or water fleas which measure 1–2 mm and widely abundant worldwide. In the cyclops, larvae develop to infective third-stage in 14 days at 26°C.
When a person drinks contaminated water from ponds or shallow open wells, the cyclops is dissolved by the gastric acid of the stomach and the larvae are released and migrate through the intestinal wall. After 100 days, the male and female meet and mate. The male becomes encapsulated and dies in the tissues while the female moves down the muscle planes. After about one year of the infection, the female worm emerges usually from the feet releasing thousands of larvae thus repeating the life cycle.
No drug is available to prevent or heal this parasitic disease – exclusively associated with drinking contaminated water. Dracunculiasis is, however, relatively easy to eliminate and eventually eradicate.
Guinea-worm disease is rarely fatal. Frequently, however, the patient remains sick for several months, mainly because:
- The emergence of the worm, sometimes several, is accompanied by painful oedema, intense generalised pruritus, blistering and an ulceration of the area from which the worm emerges.
- The migration and emergence of the worms occur in sensitive parts of the body, sometimes the articular spaces can lead to permanent disability.
- Ulcers caused by the emergence of the worm invariably develop secondary bacterial infections which exacerbate inflammation and pain resulting in temporary disability ranging from a few weeks to a few months.
- Accidental rupture of the worm in the tissue spaces can result in serious allergic reactions.