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Tungiasis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About Tungiasis

Tungiasis is an inflammatory skin disease caused by an infection from the female sand flea Tunga penetrans flea found in the tropical parts of Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America and India.

Tungiasis: Incidence, age and sex

The incidence of tungiasis is unknown because it is not a reportable disease. In resource-poor areas of the tropics the incidence may even be 30-40% with males aged 25-35 years being affected more often.

Symptoms and signs of tungiasis: Diagnosis

The burrows are intensely irritating and produce an painful, inflammatory nodule. Ulcerations, with black dots in the center may occur. Extraction of the gravid flea using a sterile needle is both diagnostic and therapeutic.

Causes and prevention of tungiasis

The pregnant sand flea burrows into the skin around toes and produces large numbers of eggs. For prevention, regular use of footwear and use of repellents Zanzarin, (a derivative of coconut oil, jojoba oil, and aloe vera) are recommended. The use of pesticide, like DDT, has also led to elimination of the Tunga penetrans.

Tungiasis: Complications

Due to the secondary infection complications such as bacteremia, tetanus, and gangrene can occur.

Tungiasis: Treatment

There is no drug effective against embedded fleas. Oral niridazole, oral ivermectin and topical ivermectin and metrifonate have been somewhat successful, but not enough to be significant. For secondary infections, trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole, metronidazole, amoxicillin, (with/without clavulanate) have been used successfully, though these treat only the secondary infections.

Successful topical treatments also include cryotherapy and electrodesiccation of the lesion. The T. penetrans flea can also be suffocated using occlusive petrolatum.Even without treatment, the burrowed fleas will die within five weeks and are naturally sloughed off as the skin sheds.