Interesting Facts About How Guinea Worm Disease Is Disappearing In Africa

Health

Guinea worm disease (GWD), is an infection caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis.

By 

Guinea worm is going down. Way down.

From more than 3 million cases of Guinea worm disease a year in the 1980’s, the world tally in 2016 stands at just two confirmed cases.

Both are in Chad and are believed to have been contained before they had a chance to spread. (There are also two suspected cases, one in Chad and one in Ethiopia.)

If Guinea worm is pushed into extinction, then Guinea worm disease would be just the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox.

It’s not a fatal condition but it’s pretty horrible. There’s a good reason the Guinea worm’s nickname is “fiery serpent.”

Guinea worm larvae live in fresh water. When people drink from contaminated ponds and other bodies of stagnant water, they can become infected with the parasite.

The larvae turn into worms that can grow to be up to 3 feet long. After about a year, the worm creates a blister, typically on the legs or feet, for its slow and painful exit.

When the worm first erupts, the person suffers a burning sensation and often seeks comfort by submerging the wound in a lake or a stream. The worm takes this opportunity to release a cloud of tens of thousands of larvae into the water. Other people end up drinking that larvae-laden water, which starts the cycle all over again.

There’s no medication to kill the worms. The only treatment is to slowly pull or cut the worm out of the infected person’s body.

Ringo Naah Sulley, the district director of Asante Akim South District Health Services, worked on Guinea worm eradication campaigns in Ghana in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He recalls how people used to extract the worms in his home village in Ghana.

“They have to put a knife in the fire until it’s red hot,” he says.

“Then they would incise it [the blister]. Usually, the pus would open and the Guinea worm emerged. Sometimes the Guinea worm is even cut into pieces.”

The other common extraction method was to twist the worm around a small stick to slowly reel it out.

“It wasn’t just a minor parasite. It was serious,” Sulley says. “In one person about three or four worms could appear on any part of the body. You have to extract one after the other until you get all the parasites out.”

Often the wounds from incising the blisters or yanking out the worms became infected.

Sulley is now with the health department in the Asante Akim South District in central Ghana. He says back in the 1990s in some remote villages, half the residents had Guinea worm. One of the reasons it spread so quickly is that people didn’t realize how the worm spread.

David Agyemang, who is the now program manager for Sightsavers’ Ghana office, used to worked on Ghana’s national Guinea worm eradication program.

“Guinea worm has no cure,” he says. “So everything was about getting people to change their behavior. Getting people to do the right things.”

In the short term, that means stopping people who had a worm dangling from their foot or leg from entering bodies of water for that momentary relief.

The longer-term solution is to get people access to clean drinking water.

Agyemang says education was the key in the drive against Guinea worm in Ghana, which eliminated the disease in 2010.

In Ghana, as soon as people learned how the worms spread, most would stay out of the rivers and lakes, says Agyemang. Even if their leg felt like it was on fire.

But to completely stop the cycle of transmission, you can’t just rely on people doing the “right thing.”

Communities posted guards at watering holes and new laws were put into place.

“You are not supposed to a water source if you have Guinea worm,” Agyemang says. “People who did that were punished. So bylaws helped us a lot.” Public health officials stress that anti-Guinea worm measures should not be imposed by outsiders.

That’s the perspective from the Carter Center in Atlanta, which has been almost obsessively devoted to eliminating Guinea worm.

“The key thing is to engage the community,” says Donald Hopkins, who’s been working on the center’s eradication program for decades. “Because it would be a disaster for outsiders, and by that, I mean people from other countries, or even people from outside the community, to come in and demand that people do one thing or another.”

He adds that it’s crucial is to explain to the community that this parasite is coming from their drinking water and convince them that they have the power to stop it.

“And then let them figure out what to do,” he says.

In his view, having a local plan is critical. “It’s true that in some communities, the village elders got together and agreed that if anyone knowingly goes into a drinking water source with a Guinea worm coming out of their body, they will fine them a goat or something else as a way of punishment, but the important thing is that it must be the community that puts those sanctions in place.”

Hopkins notes that an eradication program like this based on getting people to change is far more complex than a one-shot vaccination campaign. Yet the Guinea worm strategy — including the use of punishments in some communities — has been working.

Prior to the global eradication effort, which began in earnest in the 1990s, Guinea worm was spread all across the mid-section of Africa, parts of the Middle East and South Asia.

Last year, in a nod to just how close the world is to being Guinea worm-free, former President Jimmy Carter declared, “I’d like the last Guinea worm to die before I do.”

The way things have been going, the 91-year-old might just get his wish.

Why Mosquitoes In Central Africa Different From Other Mosquitoes In Africa?

Mosquito 2

(Aedes aegypti Anopheles mosquito transmits deadly parasite causing malaria in Africa.

By Johan Van Dongen and Joel Savage

Malaria is one of the deadly diseases in Africa, claiming thousands of lives yearly. It is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. The parasite can be spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Male mosquito doesn’t transmit the disease but female Anopheles mosquitoes pick up the parasite from infected people when they bite to obtain blood needed to nurture their eggs. Inside the mosquito the parasites develop and reproduce. When the mosquito bites again, the parasites mix with its saliva and pass into the blood of the person being bitten.

For a very long time eradication of malaria in Africa has been a daunting task, because of poverty and poor drainage, since the eggs of the disease carriers thrive in stagnant pools, chocked gutters and uncollected debris.

People always try to make fortune out of other people’s misery. In one of the research of Holland’s Micro-Surgeon and scientist Johan Van Dongen, he discovered that the malaria in Central Africa was entirely different from those in other African countries, due to its deadly and devastating effects.

Johan Van Dongen revealed that: Striking is that some Africans discussed the presence of mosquitoes and why white folk did not penetrate Africa until the nineteenth century? Within one of my hundreds of previous articles, I explained to Africans and the Afro-Americans that white folk has developed diseases and put them with genetic engineering techniques into African mosquitoes in order to kill black folks.

This is the reason the type of mosquitoes in Central Africa are different from normal mosquitoes in Africa. I can imagine that my research may not be satisfactory to many, but you shouldn’t doubt what I have said. I have already issued a challenge to all top scientists in Europe and America to prove me wrong, if Aids, Ebola, Lassa fever and other deadly diseases weren’t medical crimes against Africa, up till now no one has accepted the challenge.

We have pilots, scientists, engineers, teachers, journalists etc, all of them went to school. Many graduate to serve their countries in humility, humbleness and in truth, while others chose the path of destruction just to cause misery and suffering to the poor and helpless for their greed and selfish gains. I am not on the path of destruction. If you are a scientist over there and you doubt my research, come forward and challenge me.