Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jimmy Carter and the Worms

You may not know what Jimmy Carter has been up to over the past few decades. I thought he was building houses with Habitat for Humanity, but he's also been helping to eradicate the guinea worm. Here he is on the Daily Show, describing what these buggers are and the damage they cause.

Dracunculus medinensis is a parasite that flourishes in stagnant water. Its eggs are ingested by people who don't have access to wells or other better water sources. It used to be endemic in much of the world.

The creatures -- which basically look like a 30' piece of white string -- grow inside the body and then leave by erupting through the skin, particularly on the foot or leg of the host. The eruption doesn't kill you (unless it gets infected) but it's very painful and disfiguring.

The Carter Center has been working on giving and teaching about filters to people. Because the eggs are relatively large, they can be filtered out of water pretty easily.

This was the part that got me the most: In 1986 there were 3.5 million cases. Last year there were 542.

Good job, Jimmy Carter and everyone else who has made this happen. Dracunculiasis is on track to become the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.

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