Monday, March 1, 2010

Guinea Worm’s Scheduled Disappeance

Guinea worm emerging from a child. From

The presence of Guinea worm disease is an indicator of extreme poverty, including the absence of safe drinking water, in a community. Often known as the "fiery serpent," Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) has existed since ancient times, it does not kill, but its infection causes people to become non-functional for months.
An international coalition led by the Carter Center is now close to eradicating it. At least this is what they declare at their web page. And I’m wondering if they will success in 2010, because, once the target was set for 1995. Incredibly, but 15 years have passed since this target.
Here, I reproduce the text from the National Geographic Magazine, November 2005, called The End of a Scourge? Guinea worm’s scheduled dissapearance.

“There is no vaccine. There’s no cure. You can’t develop immunity to the disease caused by this three-foot long parasite the width of angel-hair pasta.
For millennia –as long as people have waded into lakes and ponds to draw water- guinea worms have afflicted humans. Today the demise of the worm and the crippling disease it causes may be in sight. But as health workers confront the world’s last cases, their jobs are becoming even harder. To eliminate the final holdouts of the disease, health workers must change the behavior of people in some of the poorest, most neglected places on Earth.
The target date for ending guinea worm disease, once set for 1995, is now 2009. If that date holds, guinea worm could be the second disease (after smallpox) and the first human parasite eradicated in history. The Carter Center, which since 1986 has led the initiative to stop the scourge, reports that only about 16,000 cases remain, all in Africa.
Guinea worm larvae live in tiny crustaceans often referred to as water fleas. When people drink water contaminated by the fleas, their digestive systems destroy the fleas but not the worm larvae, which continue to mature. Male worms die after mating inside the human hosts; females grow ferociously, averaging almost an inch a week. In about a year the worm slowly emerges headfirst, usually from somewhere in the lower legs or arms of the carrier, and causes disabling pain that keeps students from school and farmers from their fields.”

This is the update from, March 1, 2010:
Prevalence of Guinea Worm

When The Carter Center began leading the campaign to eradicate Guinea worm in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases of the disease in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. In 2008, there were fewer than 5,000 cases in six African countries—Sudan, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Niger.  Nigeria and Niger have since stopped transmission, and final case totals for 2009—estimated at fewer than 3,500—will be confirmed in 2010. 

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