Horrif-EYE-ing symptoms!

The Loa loa is without a doubt a parasite in that the parasite benefits while the host is harmed during the relationship; the Loa loa benefits by feeding on bodily fluids underneath the skin (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). These parasites differ from other thread-like nematode parasites; they have nuclei throughout their entire body while similar parasites do not have their nuclei extend as far (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). Learn more about their morphology and how it increases reproductive success. A human infected with this parasite can experience everything from no symptoms at all to spreading a disease called filariasis, which can cause Calabar swelling (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). This swelling appears on the limbs and joints, making the skin very irritated and movement painful (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). Another negative effect these parasites can cause is extreme pain when migrating throughout the body tissues (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). This parasite rarely affects one’s vision, however the inflammation as a result from the migration of the parasite can cause temporary blindness that can endure anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). Along with that, the Loa loa can mature in 1-4 years and can remain alive in your body for as long as 17 years! (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008).

This could directly affect YOU!

We know the Loa loa inhabits western and central countries in Africa, but travelers and immigrants are just as susceptible to this parasite. There are three most common cases when the Loa loa appears outside of Africa: when people from endemic countries immigrate to a different country, travelers from non-endemic areas visiting endemic areas, or an infected traveler spreading it to his or her non-endemic home (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008).

How are these eye-soar suckers spread?

The life cycle of this nematode reveals just how they are transmitted to humans- from the help of three different species of Chrysops fly: Chrysops dimidiata, Chrysops silacea, and Chrysops langi (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). Research does not indicate weather the larva of Loa loa brings them any harm; they act more as a vessel to the true destination: the human host. They generally inhabit swampy areas with a body of water and a plentiful source of decaying plant material (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). Females require a wet environment to lay their eggs as well as a blood supply for energy and reproduction. These flies find their way to humans because they are attracted to smoke from wood fire as well as carbon dioxide we exhale (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). It all starts with a bite from one of these flies who carry the developing larva of the Loa loa (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). The bites from these flies differ from a puncture from a mosquito; these flies create a slit then lap up the blood from the host, which creates a pathway for the parasite to enter (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). When the larva enters the human body, they must first be capable of crawling from the mouth of the fly into the bite (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). They mature under the skin of humans into the adult stages where the fly will bite again and ingest the larva to carry it to another human host (Padgett and Jacobsen 2008). From there, all it takes is 12 days after exposure for these parasites to start to develop (Antinori et al. 2012).

How do you get rid of these pests?

 The most common methods of treating these parasites are surgical extraction and antimicrobial drugs(Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). The only problem with extraction is that it is tough to kill off all traces of the parasite while the drugs are more effective in that way (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). However, some of the drugs have negative side effects; in some cases when diethycarbamazine goes through the blood stream, it causes brain swelling or retinal seepage (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). Ivermectin is the most effective way to treat this infection yet it also has some serious side effects: coma inducing, brain swelling, retinal seepage, and kidney damage (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). Research suggest that there is a direct relationship between the increased risk of having a deadly reaction to ivermectin and the severity of the infection or “population” of Loa loa (Gardon et al. 1997).

Parasite competition? Double trouble!

Onchocerca volvulus and Loa loa spell double the trouble since they are prevalent in the same habitat and both cause human filariases (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). Additionally, treatment through ivermectin therapy for patients who are infected with both Onchocerca volvulus and Loa loa is more risky because of the neurological complications that can ensue from these treatments (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008). The severe reactions to ivermectin are not well understood; they may have to do with the rapid effectiveness of the drugs killing the numerous larval parasites (Pagett and Jacobsen 2008).


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