. . A
matchstick protrudes from her left ankle, with the tip of a
pale, threadlike Guinea worm coiled around it. The stick will
be turned once a day, coaxing the live worm slowly from her
year earlier, the girl had sipped water contaminated with a
tiny flea called cyclops, which carries the larvae of the Guinea
worm. Worms can grow up to three feet long inside their human
host before emerging through painful, burning blisters usually
on the legs or feet. While the worm itself doesnt kill
its host, secondary infections from the disease can be fatal.
ancient parasite, which has been found in three-thousand- year-old
mummies, is so painful that grown men with the blisters put
down their farming tools and cry. Children who cant walk
because of blisters on their legs and feet crawl along the ground.
No vaccine or treatments exist and victims can be reinfected
repeatedly. Since the disease can cripple its victims, leaving
them unable to work, attend school, care for children, or harvest
crops, it further debilitates the already impoverished regions
where it flourishes.
of workers and volunteers with Global 2000, the international
health and food security arm of the Carter Center, have been
battling Guinea worm for more than a decade, with the hope that
it will become the second disease after smallpox to be eradicated.
Worldwide, cases of Guinea worm disease have dropped from 3.2
million in 1986 to 75,000 last year.