There are many horrific parasites that can infect people and cause appalling health problems including blindness, monstrous swellings in various parts of the body, cysts in various organs, rotting flesh, excretion of large worms, and other very nasty things. The five parasitic infections below are some of the worst ones that humans can get because they are more than usually deadly and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Triatomine bugs also called kissing bugs, spread Trypanosoma parasites in their feces. The parasites infect people when the bugs defecate on the victims’ skin or food. The disease is also spread through blood transfusions. At first, the infected person may have no symptoms or may have mild, general symptoms like fever, fatigue, or headache. If not treated, the disease becomes chronic and can result in serious issues such as swelling of the heart, irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest, inability to swallow, and abdominal pain. The main danger of this parasitic infection lies in its insidious nature. Most victims never seek treatment in the early, easily treated phase. In fact, they never know they have been infected until serious, life-threatening symptoms occur years after the initial infection.
Spread by the Anopheles mosquito, the parasite Plasmodium enters the body of its victim, multiplies in his or her liver, and infects red blood cells. The parasites change the structure of the infected blood cells, and this causes a lack of blood flow to vital organs. Symptoms of the disease begin 10 to 15 days after the mosquito bite and include high fever, vomiting, and headache. If not treated promptly, malaria can rapidly become life-threatening. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that the disease kills approximately 655,000 people per year.
Ingesting the eggs of the parasite Baylisascaris procyonis can cause serious disease. These eggs are found in raccoon feces, but people do not need to eat the feces to become infected. They simply need to touch their mouths with dirty hands. Because they are more likely to eat dirt or to put dirty hands into their mouths, young children are most likely to become infected with these dangerous parasites. Once a person becomes infected, the parasites, which are relatively harmless to raccoons, cause symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, loss of vision, decreased muscle control, and other neurological signs. In serious cases, the disease can result in permanent neurological damage, blindness, or death.
The Brain-Eating Amoeba
Naegleria fowleri, better known as the brain-eating amoeba, lives in soil and warm bodies of freshwater including lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It can also be found in contaminated tap water. A person becomes infected with this parasite when the contaminated water enters his or her nose. After entering the nose, the amoeba travels to the brain where it causes meningoencephalitis. Early symptoms of infection include fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. These are usually followed by a stiff neck, seizures, confusion, hallucinations, coma, and death. This is a rare infection, and it is usually fatal.
Leishmania parasites are single-celled organisms that are transmitted to humans through sandfly bites. Most commonly, the parasites cause severe skin lesions, a condition known as cutaneous leishmaniasis. In some cases, however, infected people develop visceral leishmaniasis. This severe form of the disease causes fever, weight loss, liver enlargement, spleen enlargement, anemia, bleeding, and increased risk of developing other infections. Without treatment, visceral leishmaniasis almost always kills its victims.