News - December 22, 2011

The worm turns: an exotic internship

Master’s student Yannick felt a hard lump on his head during his internship in Bolivia. It turned out to be a wormlike creature with a big abdomen.

He feared as much as soon as he felt the bump. 'Quite a few people around me here in Bolivia have had this work', says Yannick Klomberg, MSc student of Forest and Nature Management. 'The eggs were probably laid when I hung my cap outside to dry.' According to Marchel Ratering of the Vaccination Centre, this disease is called Larva migrans. 'A sort of boil with a moving head.' The condition is quite common in South America.
Parasite takes good care of host
Ratering comes across the worm a few times a year. 'Photos always attract interest at parties. It is unpleasant, but nothing to worry about', he says. 'Whether it's a small worm or a creature that spreads all around the body under the skin, they are all parasites. And they take good care of their hosts, actually, because it is not in their interests for their food source to be in difficulties.' According to Ratering, the dangers of the tropics should not be exaggerated. 'You can pick up more serious diseases though, so it is always a good idea to have a check-up when you get back.' Yannick is not worried either. 'I have already had malaria once, too. This worm doesn't hurt much itself; you just feel something moving under your skin and you can get stabbing pains when it is eating. But the doctor had to cut it out, so for that reason I am on painkillers now.'
Second worm
'I get a lot of responses from people in the Netherlands who think it's very scary to have something like this in your body. They thought the enlarged photo was disgusting too, but those who have been in tropical countries know that you can get rid of it quickly.' Yannick's worm was surgically removed, and he is now on antibiotics in case it was infected. But Yannick is not worm-free yet. There is another worm in his arm, apparently.
Read more (in Dutch) on  Yannick's blog.