Disgusting parasites in humans! These invasive parasites are known for eating us alive & can cause horrifying infections & diseases inside you.
10: Blood Flukes
Scientifically known as schistosoma, blood flukes are one of the most common parasites in the world, affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. They’re a type of flatworm parasite that uses snails as an intermediate host by latching onto them then attaching themselves onto human skin & hatching eggs inside the human’s bladder or intestine.
Once inside your body, blood flukes can live a very long time. The initial symptoms of itching & rashes begin appearing in just a few days. After a couple months, diarrhea, coughing, headaches, & fever will likely occur. Several years of leaving it untreated will then lead to the eggs spreading & infecting organs such as the lungs, liver, & bladder. They may even affect the spinal cord and brain, thus causing paralysis & seizures.
This parasite is found primarily in Africa, the Middle East, South America, & parts of South Asia. Children are at especially high risk as they can develop learning disabilities & suffer from malnutrition. As such, the World Health Organization considers blood flukes to be among the most socio-economically damaging parasites in the world.
9: The Horsehair Worm
Also known as “gordian worms” or “nematomorpha,” the horsehair worm is a parasitic worm found in watery areas such as pools, creeks, & puddles. Scientists believe this parasite is comprised of anywhere between 350 to 2,000 different subspecies. While horsehair worms do not pose any direct threat to humans, they do pose an interestingly unique & specific danger towards crickets. They hatch as larvae at the bottom of a creek, stream, or puddle, then wait to be eaten by a cricket. Once consumed, the horsehair worm will navigate its way into the cricket’s body cavity, where it absorbs nutrients from the cricket. As soon as this parasite breaks free, it coaxes the cricket into drowning itself so the horsehair worm can fully emerge. After leaving the dead cricket, it then finds a mate, who helps it reproduce by laying eggs. The male worm dies & the deadly cycle continues.
Roundworms are parasites responsible for causing a disease in humans known as filariasis. Carried by flies & mosquitos, they infect one’s bloodstream with the potential to reach the lymphatic system, causing the body parts (such as your limbs & genitals) to swell up well beyond their normal size. The skin will also become thick & painful as a result of infection.
Roundworm-induced filariasis affects close to 1 billion people in 80 countries throughout the world. Fortunately, this condition is treatable through the use of oral drugs such as Diethylcarbamazine, which kills off the infection & prevents further transmission to other people.
7: The Tsetse Fly
Found in Africa, the tsetse fly is one of the main causes of trypanosomiasis, or African sleeping sickness. This parasitic disease affects roughly 10 million people & is most common in more rural areas. Symptoms include headaches, fever, joint pain, poor coordination, confusion, muscle weakness, paralysis of the limbs, & trouble sleeping. It can eventually prove fatal if treatment is not sought, causing death due to eventual organ failure.
While the disease has been present in Africa for thousands of years, the death rate has decreased in recent years due to advances in modern medicine. In 1990, for example, about 34,000 people died from African sleeping sickness, which is close to four times higher than its current death rate of 9,000 people per year.
6: The Emerald Jewel Wasp
Also known as the “emerald cockroach,” the emerald jewel is known for paralyzing cockroaches in order to use them for their larvae. They’re native to South Asia as well as parts of Africa & the Pacific islands, where they paralyze cockroaches with their sting then lead them to their nest trap in a burrow. Here, the emerald jewel proceeds to lay its eggs inside the roach’s abdomen.
Over a period of about 10 days, the wasp controls the amount of venom injected into its victim in order to keep it alive, all the while allowing its larvae to feed off the roach’s organs. Controlling the venom is important as too much venom will kill the cockroach while too little will allow it to make a full recovery. Wasps keep the roaches alive in order to feast off their bodies & harvest their own eggs. A cocoon is then formed here, where eventually, a full-grown wasp is born. It is at this point that the cockroach finally dies.
5: The Loa Loa
Commonly referred to as the “eye worm,” the loa loa is one of the main causes of a condition known as loa loa filariasis, which is both a skin & eye disease. The loa loa is transmit to humans through deer flies & can live inside humans for up to 17 years! Once they infect you, they find their way into your body through your skin or eyes.
This often causes itching, swelling, & at times, severe pain if the worm migrates underneath your eyes. Other symptoms include fluid buildup in the testicles in men, damage to the large intestine, arthritis, damage to the retina layers, infection of the lymph glands, & kidney disease.
Medications alone are not capable of completely treating loa loa filariasis. Thus, surgery is often required along with the use of prescribed drugs after surgery for continued treatment. An estimated 12 million people across 11 different countries in Africa are infected by the loa loa.
4: Onchocerca Volvulus
The parasitic nematode known as onchocerca volvulus is responsible for river blindness; the second leading cause of blindness in the world, second only to trachoma. 37 million people are affected by this in some form or another while another estimated 800,000 have suffered some degree of vision loss. The vast majority of those affected reside in sub-Saharan Africa.
River blindness gets its name from the fact that the onchocerca volvulus nematode infects black flies living near rivers. Once the fly bites a human, the worms make their way into your skin & hatch larvae that make their way back up to the surface of your skin as well as your eyes, thus causing the blindness. In addition to vision loss, river blindness also causes symptoms such as bumps under the skin, severe itching, a rare form of epilepsy called Nodding Disease, & a condition known as Mazzotti Reaction. Mazzotti Reaction can be life-threatening as it induces fever, abdominal pain, edema, swollen lymph nodes, & an allergic reaction to medicine.
Anisakis are another type of parasitic nematode that infect the gastrointestinal tract through the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. This condition is more prevalent where raw fish is regularly consumed such as Japan & parts of Scandinavia. Soon after the nematode is consumed with the food, it attempts to dig its way through the intestinal wall but dies trying, thus causing severe abdominal pain in the process. Additionally, immune cells react to the nematode & form a wall around it. This in turn ends up blocking the digestive tract, which additionally leads to malnutrition & vomiting. More severe cases, can result in a condition similar to Crohn’s Disease, with symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, fever, weight loss, skin rashes, anemia, & bowel obstruction.
Whipworms are a type of roundworm responsible for causing trichuriasis, or whipworm infection. This is a disease that affects up to 800 million people as it’s prevalent throughout the tropical regions of the world. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, low red blood cell levels, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, long-standing blood loss, rectal prolapse, & learning disabilities in children.
Whipworms usually infect people through food, such as contaminated vegetables that have not been washed, or soil, which is easily spread around. The infection is often treated through the drugs Mebendazole, Albendazole, & Ivermectin. In places like China & Korea however—where the sanitation is poor & there exists a lack of medical supplies—treatment & prevention of an infection can be very difficult.
While there are many different types of botflies, it’s the dermatobia hominis that infects humans. Botflies enlist the help of mosquitos & ticks to do their dirty work. Native to South America, these large, hairy flies, will lay their eggs on a mosquito or tick, which then bites & infects a human. The botfly larvae will then begin hatching eggs that, in turn, proceed to eat through your muscle tissue.
It is said that humans who become infected with these parasites can even hear them moving around inside their body. Aside from that, botflies also leave sores at the point of entrance, which often becomes red & swollen. In order to extract these flies, people have been known to put petroleum over the wounds to suffocate them, then pull them out with tweezers.