This 1990 photograph depicted a field technician holding an unfiltered bottle of water that had been extracted from a nearby stream. A number of children were observing tiny, free-swimming copepods (water fleas) in the water, which they'd been drinking until educated as to how to filter out these organisms. The importance of the copepod presence lies in the fact that they are carriers of the larval 'Guinea worm' parasite, Dracunculus medinensis, and their ingestion leads to one becoming infected with Guinea worm disease (GWD). Once inside the body, the stomach acid digests the water flea, but not the Guinea worm. These larvae find their way to the small intestine, where they penetrate the wall of the intestine and pass into the body cavity. During the next 10-14 months, the female Guinea worm grows to a full size adult 60-100 centimeters (2-3 feet) long and as wide as a cooked spaghetti noodle, and migrates to the site where she will emerge, usually the lower limbs.
November 27, 2012
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