There are any number of things that keep me awake at night. It might be the various dumpster fires blazing around the country and the world. Or it could be early fretting about my son’s transition to middle school in the fall and the conversations from 20 years ago that I replay over and over again. And now there’s one more thing I can add to the list of things to keep me awake at night: mosquitos that inject worms into your skin while sucking your blood.
Yep, you read that right — Mosquitos. That. Inject.Worms. Into. Your. Skin.
Because the world wasn’t enough of a hot mess. Apparently we need to worry about horror movie-like mosquitos dropping parasitic worms into our faces too.
I’ll give you a minute to stop retching and/or hyperventilating.
According to NPR, a woman was infected with Dirofilaria repens, a parasitic worm of the Old World. Her horror movie-esque experience – along with some disturbing as hell photos — was published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently. And this isn’t just some weird but harmless medical situation either — there woman actually had to have the worms surgically removed form her lip.
The Journal reports that the 32-year-old woman from Russia experienced a localized itching and burning sensation, but otherwise had no symptoms. She had recently traveled to a rural area outside Moscow and said she had been frequently bitten by mosquitoes while there.
And there was the culprit.
So just how does something this gruesome happen?
Well, Natalia Pshenichnaya — a doctor who studies infectious diseases at Rostov State Medical University in Rostov, Russia — told NPR, it starts with a bite from a mosquito that’s carrying the worm’s larvae, which the mosquito had picked up from a host, which are often “dogs and other carnivores.”
Then when the infected mosquito nibbles on you, the parasitic larvae latches onto your skin and enter through the mosquito bite wound. Eventually, the larvae grows — and wait for it — can actually start moving under your skin. Because, parasitic worms aren’t horrifying enough, they need to crawl around under your skin too.
Pshenichnaya told NPR that in about a fifth of cases that she has seen, the worms “move considerable distances,” including one case where a work moved from the knee to the groin area or from the upper eyelid to the buttocks. Oh, and these worms can grow up to 6.5 inches long.
Lest you think this is some freakish, one-time case, think again. Pshenichnaya told NPR that since 1997, there have been “around 4,000 patients [in the former USSR territory] and in nearly half of them, the parasite location is the face, including the eyes.”
Within Europe, cases have also happened in Austria, France, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Ukraine, according to the European Society of Dirofilariasis and Angiostrongylosis (ESDA), and humans have also been infected by the worms in Africa and Asia.
Sweet baby Jesus take the wheel, I can’t handle this.
Claudio Genchi, a veterinary scientist at the University of Milan, told NPR, the number of these infections “is dramatically rising in the West.”
So bust out the bug spray, friends. Personally I think I might make eau de mosquito repellant my new signature fragrance day and night for the next several months. Because I’d much rather worry about the awful stench and chemicals I’m spraying on my skin than whether there are actual worms crawling around in my face, thankyouverymuch.
Sweet dreams, folks.