Do you feel a slight tingling in your feet? Or a strange itching in your eyes? Maybe a headache? Don’t ignore these signs, my friend. You may be home to a ruthless and deadly parasite that will drink your blood, eat your bowels and your brain before leaving. Today we’ll explore the five most dangerous parasites that can eat you from the inside.
Parasites are creatures that need a host organism to feed on, survive in and sometimes reproduce inside. And guess what? The human body is a favorite neighborhood for some of the world’s deadliest parasites. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 found that more than one million people worldwide died from parasite-related diseases in 2013. Scary, isn’t it? What’s worse is that you can’t even see many of these invasive creatures. They’ll stop at nothing to crawl into your warm, delicious body until they can claim it as their home.
How can a dip in a lake destroy your brain? Which creature can grow 2,000 times larger inside your body? And how can contact lenses make you blind?
Number 5: Screwworms
These creepy crawlies aren’t really worms. They’re the larvae of the only fly that eats flesh as its main food source. Their jaws are so powerful they can burrow as much as 5 cm (2 in) into an open wound to lay their eggs. Once the larvae hatch they begin eating your flesh, then expand into deeper tissues such as muscles. If this isn’t scary enough, their bodies are covered in spines that make them difficult to remove from your body. Fortunately, these vicious flies are only attracted to the smell of open wounds. So you’ll be safe from them if you cover all your open wounds at once.
Number 4: Chigoe Flea
Also known as the sand fleas or jiggers, these tiny people-eaters lie in the sand and wait for a victim. Then, they burrow into your feet and feed on your blood. Chigoe fleas can grow up to 2,000 times larger than when they burrowed into your body. Then, they’ll hatch. Ouch. If it’s a male flea, you’ll just have to remove it and wash the wound. But if a female is reproducing inside your body, it can get ugly. Severe cases can lead to tetanus, gangrene and amputations. It may not be the most comfortable footwear for summer, but it’s best to wear closed-toe shoes when you’re walking on a subtropical beach.
Number 3: Acanthamoeba
This vicious single-celled creature is everywhere, in soil, air and water. The bug can get into your eyes, lungs and brain, causing a severe infection. You go even go blind. It’s a serious concern for contact lens wearers because it can enter the eyes through the lenses. That’s why you should never wash your contact lenses with tap water or wear them for long periods of time.
Number 2: Naegleria Fowleri
This brain-destroying amoeba lives in warm freshwater lakes, rivers and even hot springs. It enters your body through your nose when you swim or duck your head underwater. It goes straight to your brain, causing inflammation and tissue death. Advanced symptoms are a stiff neck, seizures and hallucinations. Unfortunately, most infected people die within a week after showing symptoms. To prevent this, avoid swimming in warm bodies of water. If you do, never disturb the sediment in the bottom and wear nose clips to keep these brain-eaters away.
Number 1: Ticks
We meet again, eh? These blood-sucking parasites carry more diseases than any other arthropod. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain fever and the Powassan virus are some of the most common illnesses, and they can permanently damage your organs and even kill you. These ruthless killers cling to the grass, waiting for a victim to pass by, walking or running. Then they latch on, dig into your flesh and start drinking your blood. That’s why you should always wear long pants in grassy areas.
You can also tuck your pants into your socks. I know, it’s not sexy at all. But better safe than sorry, right? When you’re back at home, always check your legs and armpits for red spots or bumps. There it is. You sucker. Now that you’ve avoided becoming a meal for these nasty critters, you should grab some food for yourself. But be careful what you eat because some delicacies could kill you in minutes. Why is it legal to eat them?
- “Things That Burrow Into Your Skin“. 2022. Webmd.
- “Backpacker’s Horror After Flea And Hundreds Of Eggs Burst Out Of His FOOT After Trip To Tanzania“. Mail Online.
- “Rare Parasite Nearly Blinds Teenager“. 2013. Livescience.Com.
- “7 Reasons Flesh-Eating Screwworms Are As Gross As You Think“. 2016. PBS Newshour.