Posted on July 10, 2018

Parasite-Mare: The Deadly Parasitic Worm That’s Set to Invade Europe — And It Lays Its Eggs Inside Human Organs

Emily Payne, The Sun, July 10, 2018

IT’S the second most deadly parasitic disease — only malaria is more lethal.

And schistosomiasis — also known as snail fever — could be set to invade Europe’s shores.

“Around 25-30% of humans are currently infected with at least one parasitic worm species,” writes Karl Hoffmann, Professor of Parasitology at Aberystwyth University, for The Conversation.

“The diseases they cause can be devastating.

“Worm infections can lead to diverse and chronic conditions such as scarring of the eyes and blindness, swelling of extremities and immobility, blockage of digestion and malnutrition, anaemia and tiredness.

“They can also increase an individual’s risk of developing cancer and AIDS.”

Schistosomiasis currently affects hundreds of millions of people each year, causing thousands of deaths.

Caused by schistosome flatworms, the infection occurs when people come into contact with a type of freshwater snail that produces the worms.

These worms then penetrate the skin and live in the blood vessels surrounding the intestines or bladder of the individual.

When the eggs of these flatworms become trapped in human organs, they can cause inflammation, blindness, scarring, anaemia and ultimately, death.

Any eggs that make it into the digestive system will be released when the carrier defecates or urinates. If these then reach fresh water, they can hatch and the cycle begins again.

While Schistosomiasis was previously linked to impoverished parts of South America, sub-Saharan Africa where water hygiene is limited, recent outbreaks were reported on the Mediterranean.

In 2014, six people were infected after swimming in the Cavu river, in Corsica.

And, according to Professor Hoffmann, global travel and climate change could mean we see parasitic worms continuing to move into parts of Europe and North America.

“The long-term consequences of increased parasitic worm distributions are difficult to predict, but the harm that infection causes highlights the need for developing control strategies that can mitigate this 21st-century threat to global health.”

Hoffman and his team are looking into ways to treat and prevent the spread of parasitic diseases.

“We’re not at the stage of drug development, but we hope that learning more about the disruption of these proteins could ultimately save lives across the world,” he wrote.