Monday, 16 March 2015

Dracunculiasis and the Long Decline of an Ancient Disease



The disease dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) has ravaged human populations for thousands of years (reference to the disease is documented in the Egyptian medical Ebers Papyrus, dating from around 1550 BC.) Current indications suggest that global incidences of the disease have been rapidly declining due to the concerted efforts of national and international health agencies. Here, only 148 dracunculiasis cases were reported worldwide in 2013 (which represents the lowest annual total ever recorded) and only four endemic countries remain: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan. With these countries, the majority of the cases occur in South Sudan . Nonetheless across these regions the number of endemic villages has declined from the peak of 23,735 in 1991 to 79 in 2013.

Guinea-worm disease is caused by the parasitic worm Dracunculus medinensis or "Guinea-worm". This worm is the largest of the tissue parasite affecting humans. The adult female, which carries about 3 million embryos, can measure 600 to 800 mm in length and 2 mm in diameter. The parasite migrates through the victim's subcutaneous tissues causing severe pain especially when it occurs in the joints. The worm eventually emerges (from the feet in most of the cases), causing an intensely painful oedema, a blister and an ulcer accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting.
To find out more about this disease and why a decline has occurred, Tim Sandle has written a review paper for the journal Journal of Ancient Diseases & Preventive Remedies.

The reference is:

To view a copy, please contact Tim Sandle.