Dracunculus medinensis is also known as the fireworm. It is a nematode or roundworm. The adult worms live in human connective tissue or body cavities. The adults can be up to 1 meter long. The fireworm gets its name due to the intense burning sensation that occurs when the female fireworm deposits her eggs in a boyle on the infected person's skin. The instinctual response to the burning sensation is for people to soothe the boyle in water. However, as soon as the boyle is submerged in water the female prolapses her uterus and releases her larvae into the water. People who have the lesions from the parasite on the skin can remove the adult worm by very slowly winding it around a matchstick. It has been suggested that the Caduceus (the symbol for medicine) has two fireworms wrapped around the staff.
The 3rd stage larva is within a small crustacean called a cyclops when it is ingested by humans through the process of drinking water. Once inside the human, the 3rd stage larva penetrates the intestinal wall and travels to the connective tissue or to body cavities. Here, the adult males and females will mate. Once a female is pregnant, it travels to the surface of the skin and forms a skin lesion. The larvae are released from the skin lesion when it is submerged in water. These larvae swim freely in the water until they are ingested by another cyclops. In the cyclops, the larva develops into the 2nd stage larva and eventually 3rd stage larva. The parasite is now ready to be taken into another human.
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