It's bad enough to return home from a vacation to find a rash on your body, but what happened to an unfortunate 45-year-old woman who took a trip to the Caribbean and later discovered a worm living underneath her skin blows many vacation health scares out of the water.
When she left to visit the island country, the Pennsylvania woman was completely healthy, and she felt fine upon her return, reports Live Science. But two weeks later, everything changed when she found what she thought was an irritated, raised rash on her knee.
However, it was not a rash. The wavy lines underneath her skin were the external markers of a parasitic worm that had found its way into her body and made a home under her skin, amedical report said.
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Medical experts found something even stranger about the woman's case: she was infected with either one of two species of hookworms: Ancylostoma braziliense or Ancylostoma caninum.
Both of these species do not typically prey on humans, but usually only successfully find hosts in dogs and cats, said the medical report's senior author, Dr. Chaiya Laoteppitaks. The doctor, who is an emergency medicine physician at a Philadelphia medical center, also wrote in the report that humans are not a "definitive host" for the kind of worm that infected the patient.
Hookworms, which are most prevalent in warm, wet places, normally enter the body either through the skin -- such as if somebody walks barefoot through soil contaminated with larvae -- or through food, notes Merck Manual. After entering the body, the two species that usually infect people, Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus, make their way to the intestine, where they mature and feed on blood.
But when Ancylostoma braziliense or Ancylostoma caninum enter a human host, they typically burrow under the skin and die shortly after, notes Live Science.
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This patient had a different experience. As her immune system began fighting back against the parasite, she experienced what the report referred to as a "creeping eruption" that causes severe itching.
Hookworms are able to move one or two centimeters per day, so an infected person can sometimes physically see their rash changing dimensions.
An estimated 740 million people around the world have hookworm infections, which is one of the most common parasitic ailments worldwide.
Doctors eventually treated the woman with antiparasitic medication, and she was reportedly doing well when the medical report was published online on April 8.