The grossest parasites we bet you didn’t know existed

The grossest parasites we bet you didn’t know existed

Parasite: the word alone could make you cringe. While your everyday, run-of-the-mill parasite is bad enough, nature has conjured up a batch of even more terrifying, skin-crawling creatures to keep you awake at night in terror. These parasites may not be very common, but just knowing they exist is enough to keep you on the alert.

The filarial worm

This lovely creature, known as the filarial worm, is spread to us by mosquitos and black flies (as if we didn’t have enough reason to hate them). There are three types of filariasis, but it’s the lymphatic one that has our attention. Obviously, it affects our lymphatic system (your circulation and immune system) and eventually leads to elephantiasis: the strange, grotesque disease that causes the arms and legs to swell severely and painfully. How about a frightening statistic to show you how common this disease is? While they didn’t all lead to severe elephantiasis, a whopping 38.5 million people were diagnosed with a form of lymphatic filariasis in 2015.

Naegleria fowleri

Don’t bother trying to pronounce the name; just know that it’s commonly referred to as the ‘brain-eating amoeba,’ and let that sink in for a second. It makes its home in fresh water, typically in the American Southwest, and occasionally likes to inhabit the brains of humans. The infection, known as naegleriasis, is a form of brain inflammation that causes headaches, fevers, vomiting, and other fun symptoms until ultimately killing its host 95% of the time within a week of contracting the parasite. It’s also commonly found in unchlorinated swimming pools, if that’s not enough to encourage proper pool maintenance.

The guinea worm

Dracunculiasis, known more commonly as the Guinea Worm Disease, is about as disgusting as they come. Picture this wonderful little story: you ingest a water flea while swimming in a stagnant or not-so-clean pool, which is not so uncommon, except this water flea is infected with the guinea worm larvae, which is then transferred to you once the water flea is digested and dissolved. Fast forward to a year later, and that little larva is now a full meter-long guinea worm making its way through your skin and out of your leg. Sorry for all the italics. These worms are only about as thick as a piece of string, so while death is highly unlikely, the painful burning sensation of the full-grown worm exiting your skin is perhaps worse than death.

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