Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creature Feature: Loa loa.

Part of the reason these entries have been so very delayed has been my fairly sudden, but completely foreseeable, interest in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. That series has a whole compendium's worth of monsters from around the world, including the loa, a spirit from African folklore and voodoo rituals.


No, not all loa look like that. After a quick glance, loa are a lot like Greek daimones or angels - spirits between humans and God. I have yet to see a description of a loa resembling a bad goth tattoo attempting to be edgy, but if such a loa does exist, it would explain why Loa loa is the scientific name of the African eye worm.

Infinitely more terrifying than a skull-snake. Thank

Yes, that is exactly what it looks like: A worm in a person's eye. Loa loa is a parasitic roundworm spread through horsefly bites. It is mostly found in Africa and India; please bring bug spray if you ever go to either of those places.The best way to avoid Loa loa is to avoid the bites, obviously.

Loa loa is spread entirely via fly bites. Specifically, they love using horseflies and deerflies (which are a type of horsefly) as vectors. Deerflies are vampiric like mosquitoes, yet suffer only a fraction of the hate. An infected fly bites a human, the larvae develop in the human, and another fly gets the same stage inside it. Then that fly infects another human. We're just the daycare center for those little worms while they breed. Even without the eye thing, that's a little bit nasty.

Because in your eye and blood is a LOT creepier than through your skull.

The presence of a Loa loa traveling through the eye is usually one of the first signs that somebody is infected. Otherwise, the most they feel is joint pain, called Calabar swellings, when the little larvae get stuck in one place. There are also some subtle disturbances in the lymphatic system and lungs in intense infestations. Like most parasites, Loa loa tend to be subtle. Until, of course, the worm appears in somebody's eyeball.

If symptoms persist, the host may die, but most of us are sensible enough to see a doctor for a freakin' worm in the eye. Really, that moment is not a good time to be a belonephobe. The worms can be surgically removed and/or slowly killed by diethylcarbamazine or Ivermectin. That doesn't mean that being infested with worms will not make one suspect voodoo afoot.

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