Deadly Flesh-Eating Parasites Makes A Comeback In The United States After Decades

The parasite can infect warm-blooded animals and humans, too.

Authorities declare an agricultural state of emergency in Monroe County, Florida, after discovering the re-emergence of the deadly flesh-eating parasite known as New World screwworm. These parasites have killed over 100 deer since July.

screwworm-flesh-eating-parasite US comeback


What is Screwworm ?

New World screwworm fly is also referred to as Cochliomyia.

It belongs to the family of Calliphoridae, which are blowflies. It has four species that are in the genus.

The primary screwworm is the C. hominivoraxis, in which the larvae produce myiasis and feed on living tissue. Its feeding is damaging to the animals and causes deep, pocket-like lesions in the skin.

screwworm-flesh-eating-parasite Cochliomyia

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Meanwhile, the secondary screwworm is known as C. macellaria, in which its larvae also produces myiasis yet feed only necrotic tissue. Both screwworms live in warm, tropical areas.

It is called screwworm because its twisted body is like a screw that digs into the flesh of its victim.

Cochliomyia larvae screwworm larvae
The tip of a screwworm fly larvae.

This screwworm emerged again in July and infested the deer species called Key deer that lives in Florida. It triggered the death of 132 of animals, which is about 15 percent of the population.

Ranger Kristie Killam said that they had no idea what this thing was. She further said that there was a few here and there in July and August, but it was September, when the rut started, that they started scratching their heads and realized it was not ordinary. She added that it looks like a horribly infected wound, an infected wound that never got treated, infected with mushy maggots.

The parasite can infect warm-blooded animals and humans, too.

The officials said that they are hopeful that the incident will be under control as the infestation has not spread in the southern Monroe county in Florida and no deaths have been reported yet. On the other hand, they still declared a state of agricultural emergency, according to IFL Science.

Tusklike mandibles protruding from the screwworm larva’s mouth rasp the flesh of living warm-blooded animals. A wound caused by screwworms may contain hundreds of such maggots.

To ensure the protection of the animals, they established an animal quarantine program since October and the deer are medicated, too. The sterile male screwworm flies are also released to restrict reproduction.

The New World screwworm had not been seen in Florida for 50 years. The officials had a long-fought eradication campaign since the 1930s and considered a success in 1966. They also maintained a biological control known as sterile insect technique to inhibit the screwworm from re-entering the U.S. from South and Central America, according to Science Alert.

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