What is Guinea worm disease

Guinea worm disease (also known as dracunculiasis) is on the verge of eradication with only 25 cases reported in 2016. There are now only 4 countries in Africa that are endemic for Guinea worm disease.

The parasitic illness is caught by drinking water that contains water fleas infected with Guinea worm larvae. Once in the body, the larvae reproduce. Over 10 to 14 months in the body, female larvae can grow into worms over a meter long. These worms then 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 with Guinea worm disease.

People affected by Guinea worm disease

3.5 million cases in 1985 130,000 cases in 2000 25 cases in 2016

WHO NTD roadmap targets for Guinea worm disease

The World Health Organization’s roadmap on NTDs set out a comprehensive plan for the control, elimination and eradication of various neglected tropical diseases by 2020, including Guinea worm disease.

Guinea worm disease target: Global eradication by 2020

Progress and scorecard from the 5th progress report

Since 2012, we have monitored progress annually for each disease. This information is from the 5th progress report of the London Declaration published in 2017.

Coverage and impact
Programme support
Drug requests filled
Overall progress

Status of Guinea worm disease eradication

Number of Guinea worm disease cases reported by year


  • Data is provided by the World Health Organization
  • Photo: Carter Center / L. Gubb