It was only fifty some years ago that medical school curriculum included entire courses on parasitology, but I only had a lecture or two with any significant emphasis on these crazy bugs. I can’t begin to say how thankful I am that a) I don’t have to learn this stuff and b) I don’t have to worry about getting these hell-bugs.
Where there are guinea worms, there is Guinea Worm Disease – and that’s usually in Africa. When a human consumes water contaminated with guinea worms, the little buggers infiltrate their host’s intestinal walls and commence mating. After conception, the males die off, and the females hang around for about a year, growing and eating. Eventually, these slender ladies get bored and decide they need to lay some eggs. To do so, they make their way down the body to the lower extremities, where they bore a small hole through the skin. The resulting lesion begins to fester and burn, which usually leads the host to plunge his or her foot into a soothing bucket of water (Of course, in areas where an entire village shares a single water source, this helps spread the infection.) Unfortunately for the sufferer, the water doesn’t solve the problem of having a three-foot female worm dangling its genitalia out of your foot. And to complicate matters, if you yank on that sucker, it’ll break apart and could cause a fatal infection. So how do you rid yourself of the not-so-little hitchhiker? You go see a doctor, who – over the course of three or four weeks – will kindly wind the worm around a stick, inch by agonizing inch. Not the most pleasant method, but certainly a proven one. This cure for a guinea worm infection has been around so long, so believe it’s where we get the snakes-around-a-staff symbol for medicine.
Read more here. . .