Dracunculiasis translated from Latin means "human infection with small dragons." The female roundworms-nematodes of the species Dracunculus medinensis act as dragons.
Worms settle in human skin and can reach a length of 80 centimeters or more, causing damage to the skin and intolerable itching. Dracunculiasis is also called "the defeat of the Guinean worms." The larvae of the worms penetrate into the human body together with the water containing the fold-legged crustaceans infected with nematodes.
At first, the symptoms of the disease do not appear in any way. After about a year, when the worms reach a large size, a person begins to experience a painful burning sensation of the skin, usually in the lower extremities. In this case, a person may lose the ability to move and work normally.
The nematodes that have settled under the skin are only a couple of millimeters thick. However, their length can be up to a meter or more.
Until now, humanity has not developed a vaccine or medicine to help get rid of dracunculiasis. In Africa, where this disease is especially common, there are alternative treatments for this extremely unpleasant disease. When the worm protrudes out, it is carefully wound on a stick or match for several weeks and pulled out from under the skin until it is completely removed.
After the worm is removed, the pain can continue for several months. Dracunculiasis is most common in Sudan, India, Pakistan, Ghana, Guinea, and other West African countries. There these parasites are called "fire snakes".
In 2007 alone, more than 3, 000 cases of Guinea worm infections were recorded in Ghana. And in 1986, there were 3.5 million cases in Guinea. In 2013, Sudan, Chad, Mali and Ethiopia were the main hotspots for dracunculiasis.
Over time, as doctors began to fight the dracunculiasis epidemic in Africa, it began to subside. If in 2007 more than 9, 000 cases of infection with "fire snakes" were recorded worldwide, then in 2014 the number of cases of infection decreased to only 80.
The pain caused by parasitic worms is so severe that many people cannot work or go to school for months. This causes huge losses to agriculture. For example, in a small Nigerian village rice-growing village, for example, dracunculiasis caused $ 20 million in losses to farmers.
Other symptoms of dracunculiasis include fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and allergic reactions to worms that live under the skin. If the worm dies while in the human body - and does not come out, this can cause arthritis and even paralysis.
The first mentions of worms that cause dracunculiasis were recorded in Egyptian papyri dated 1550 BC. Little dragons have even been found in Egyptian mummies.
Scientists suggest that the method of extracting worms, based on slowly winding them on a stick, served as the prototype for the well-known symbol of medicine - the Staff of Asclepius, which is a snake that wraps around a rod.
The first Russian doctor to investigate dracunculiasis was Alexei Fedchenko. In the 1860s, he came to Samarkand and collected several samples of Guinean worms that lived for some time in a bottle of water.
To prevent dracunculiasis, it is enough to filter drinking water through banal gauze or disinfect it.