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The Creeping Eruption

By Rebecca Hernandez

Oh sweet Jesus, that's nasty.

Here’s one to make your skin crawl. Literally. Gnathostoma spinigerum is a nematode worm found mostly in Southeast Asia hanging about in raw or undercooked meat.

If the nematodes are digested, symptoms occur quickly - about one to two days after infection. The worms escape the stomach and find their way to their host’s organs or, more frequently, subcutaneous tissue (just under the skin).

It’s at this stage that the other terms ‘creeping eruption’ and ‘wandering swelling’ - come into play. Yes, you can see the worm (and it usually is only one) crawling underneath your skin. Not only that, but they are quite adept at it, travelling around one centimetre per hour.

Apparently there have been reported cases of the parasite travelling from one arm, across the chest, and down the other arm in the period of about eight hours.

Surgical removal is tricky due to the worm’s constant movement and fear of scalpels. Doctors get around this task by cornering the little fellow with a tourniquet and slicing it out of you.

Interesting fact: The first described case of gnathostomiasis was in a young tiger that died in the London Zoo in 1835.

Danger of Death: Death is unlikely but they can cause various degrees of damage depending on where they wander in the body.

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10 Feb 2009
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