Caribbean vacation ends with parasitic worms in the foot
The Caribbean attracts many tourists with fantastic beaches and offers a good opportunity to escape the dreary gray of winter. This is how a Canadian couple imagined their dream vacation in the Dominican Republic, but after strolling along the picturesque beaches, they noticed a strong itch in their feet. The couple dismissed this as harmless insect bites, but when they returned to Ontario, the itchy spots developed into painful swollen blisters and unusual bumps on the toes.
Two doctors the couple consulted were also at a loss and could not identify the cause. Only the third doctor tracked down the blind passengers in the patients' feet. He diagnosed Larva migrans, a skin disease that is also known as the skin mole.
The disease is triggered by the larvae of certain hookworms, which are often found in faeces-contaminated soils in warm and humid climates, such as in Africa, America, China and Southeast Asia.
The hookworm life cycle
The hookworm larvae are in the ground and can come into contact with human skin. This often happens when walking barefoot. The larvae can penetrate the human host through the skin and then try to reach the small intestine of the host. There they develop into adult hookworms that can survive in the small intestine for up to two years. They lay eggs in the intestine that are excreted in the faeces and can thus reach a new host. In addition to humans, various animals such as dogs and cats also serve as hosts.
Symptoms of hookworm infection
The larvae move slowly under the skin, causing itchy red lines. This condition is medically called Larva migrans cutanea and can last for several weeks. These skin irritations are usually harmless. If the larvae migrate to the lungs, respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing can develop. Severe infestation of hookworm larvae can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and anemia.
How can the parasites be controlled?
In most cases, parasite infestation ends automatically after one to three months as the larvae die. The German Dermatological Society (DDG) recommends oral therapy with ivermectin for severe infections or severe psychological stress.
If this is unsuccessful, albendazole or albendazole-containing ointments can be used. Itching can be combated with creams containing glucocorticoid or systemic antihistamines. As a prophylaxis, avoiding walking barefoot on potentially contaminated areas helps. More information and natural help against worms can be found here. (vb)