Dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease)

Greenaway, Chris
February 2004
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;2/17/2004, Vol. 170 Issue 4, p495
Academic Journal
DRACUNCULIASIS (GUINEA WORM DISEASE) IS A PARASITIC disease that is limited to remote, rural villages in 13 sub-Saharan African countries that do not have access to safe drinking water. It is one the next diseases targeted for eradication by the World Health Organization. Guinea worm disease is transmitted by drinking water containing copepods (water fleas) that are infected with Dracun-culiasis medinensis larvae. One year after human ingestion of infected water a female adult worm emerges, typically from a lower extremity, producing painful ulcers that can impair mobility for up to several weeks. This disease occurs annually when agricultural activities are at their peak. Large proportions of economically productive individuals of a village are usually affected simultaneously, resulting in decreased agricultural productivity and economic hardship. Eradication of guinea worm disease depends on prevention, as there is no effective treatment or vaccine. Since 1986, there has been a 98% reduction in guinea worm disease worldwide, achieved primarily through community-based programs. These programs have educated local populations on how to filter drinking water to remove the parasite and how to prevent those with ulcers from infecting drinking-water sources. Complete eradication will require sustained high-level political, financial and community support.


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