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Guinea worm disease

Guinea worm disease cropped image

What is Guinea worm disease?

Guinea worm disease (also known as dracunculiasis) is on the verge of eradication with only 13 cases reported in 2023. There are now only eight countries – all of them in Africa – where human cases for Guinea worm disease are reported.

Guinea worm disease is a parasitic illness which is caught by drinking water that contains fleas infected with Guinea worm larvae. Once in the body, the larvae reproduce. Over the course of ten to 14 months in the body, female larvae can grow into worms that are over a meter long. Eventually, these worms begin to emerge from the skin through very painful blisters on the legs or feet. This is also accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting.

Once a worm has emerged from the body, it must be carefully and slowly removed over several weeks. The wound caused often develops a secondary infection which increases the time it takes for an individual to resume normal activities.

If the worm is not removed, it can lead to septicaemia (infection across the whole body) and permanent disability for the person.

WHO road map target:

Eradication by 2030

Key stats

  • 3.5 million

    cases in 1985

  • 130,000

    cases in 2000

  • 13

    cases in 2023

Status of Guinea worm disease eradication 2023

Number of Guinea worm disease cases reported by year

Further information

Coalition partners

Carter Centre

A leader in the eradication and elimination of diseases, the Center fights six preventable diseases — Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria in Hispaniola — by using health education and simple, low-cost methods.

Carter Center