Loa Loa Eye Worm Infection

The loa loa is a long worm that lives in the human eye, reaching up to 20 cm long. This virus causes filariasis and has an interesting life cycle.

What is it?

The loa loa is an extremely small nematode parasitic in humans. It’s transmitted through bites from horseflies, such as deer flies and yellow flies, which host and develop the young worm larvae until they bite and infect someone through blood transferral. They have simple bodies comprised of a tail, body, and head and range anywhere from 20 mm long to 70 mm long.

Where is the loa loa located?

The loa loa is endemic to Central and West Africa–especially in Congo and Sudan–where they thrive in rainforests and are attracted to people’s movements as well wood fire smoke. Bites usually occur during the day with an increased rate during the rainy season.

How will it kill you?

After sustaining a horsefly bite, the loa loa will travel from the entry site to the rest of your body through your subcutaneous tissue, causing inflammation wherever they travel. If it stops in one particular area, you’ll develop an itchy inflammation in that area called a Calabar swelling, which lasts anywhere from 1-3 days. It can also travel through your eyes, causing your infected eye to swell. Symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, itching, and in extreme cases, death.

How to survive:

Surgically removing this parasite is a simple process and can be done on any infected area of your body, including the eyes. But removing the worm does not completely cure the infection as the worm may have spread microfilariae throughout other parts of your body. These can be eliminated through the use of diethylcarbamazine or Ivermectin, although the former can have severe and fatal side effects to your health.


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