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helminthiasis caused by the roundworm (helminth) Dracunculus medinensis, a nematode that parasitizes mainly subcutaneous tissue. It attacks man and some animals (dogs, jackals, and so forth). It is widespread in some parts of Africa, India, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and Brazil. In the USSR, it was observed in separate areas in Middle Asia; it was eradicated with the active help of the Soviet scientist L. M. Isaev and has not been reported since 1932.
Human beings become infected when they swallow the infested crustacean Cyclops with water. Nine to 14 months after infection, allergic symptoms (hives, attacks of asphyxia, and so forth), as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fainting spells occur. A blister forms on the skin around the place where the helminth has penetrated. The parasite can often be seen in this place. The blister breaks a few days later, with the formation and subsequent sloughing off of a necrotic mass. When a person goes into the water (to bathe), the larva of the parasite escapes from the infected area into the water and enters the body of Cyclops.
Dracunculiasis may be complicated by synovitis (inflammation of the joint capsules), contractures, and so forth. Treatment consists in surgical removal of the helminth and administration of anti-inflammatory agents. Prevention consists in proper organization of the water supply system.