Girl's feet infested with parasitic sand fleas after she ran through pigsty barefoot
While on vacation with her family in Brazil, a 10-year-old girl played in a pigsty barefoot. It sounds innocent enough, but soon afterward, she developed multiple itchy papules on the bottom of her feet. The lesions were brown, with black dots at the center, a result of a parasitic sand flea infestation.
Her case was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and included a photo of the horrific papules. The girl, was not named, traveled to Brazil two weeks prior to visiting the health clinic and reported suffering with the lesions for ten days. She was otherwise healthy and had previously received the recommended tetanus vaccinations.
Doctors diagnosed the patient with tungiasis, a cutaneous parasitosis caused by the female sand flea Tunga penetrans, according to the World Health Organization. The female sand flea commonly burrows in the skin at the toes, sole, rim of the foot and heels, where it feeds on the blood and rapidly grows in body volume, causing itching.
In the girl's case, the doctors removed the fleas and treated the wounds. There was a complete remission of the lesions and her feet healed with no complications.
Tunga penetrans is found throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, such as Central America, the Caribbean and South America. According to WHO, Tungiasis thrives where living conditions are poor, such as remote villages, rural communities and shanty towns.