Doctor Oz did a show on called Parasites: Living Under Your Skin to discuss The Kissing Bug (which causes Chagas) or The Assassin Bug, Hookworms and The Bulinus Snail. Parasites can cause infections which can cause heart disease, blindness, stokes and many other health problems. Millions of people die every year in the developing world for parasites, and these same parasites are becoming more and more common in America. For example, parasites cause 10,000 cases of Toxocara infections each year in America and can leave you blind. Cysticercosis is another parasitic infection that 170,000 are inflicting with each year. You can catch all of these parasitic infections in water, land or air – so if you have been to the Southern US states or on a cruise lately, please pay attention and send this article to all of your friends and family members!
The Kissing Bug or The Assassin Bug
Dr Oz said the Kissing Bug gets its name because it bites you on the lips. Often the Kissing Bug flies into your lips while you are sleeping (I think I might have a hard time falling asleep tonight knowing this!). The Kissing Bug is also called The Assassin Bug, because it leads to Chagas disease which can kill you. The Kissing Bug’s bite is not what gives you Chagas, you get Chagas by the Kissing Bug biting you and the defecating where it bites you, and its feces carries Chagas. Chagas can cause stroke and heart failure. Dr Mike Leahy joined Dr Oz to explain about the Kissing Bug / the Assassin Bug. Leahy said you are most likely to catch Chagas on a vacation in Latin America, but 300,000 cases exist of people infected within the US, primarily in southern states. Chagas is not curable and will likely kill you by means of a not so pleasant death.
Hookworms can cause anemia, abdominal pain and weight loss. The teeth of the hookworms latch on to you or “hook” on to you and can cause malnutrition. 740 million people in the world are infected by hookworms. How do you get hookworms? Dr Oz gave a great explanation for how people commonly contract hookworms. Lets say you are walking in the soil, and worms burrow their way into your skin. Then the hookworms will get into your blood vessels and head to your lungs. From your lungs, the hookworms will climb into your mouth and fall back into your intestinal tract, where they will latch on in the form of larvae and grow into full grown adults. I wonder how hookworms know to take this path to get to your intestinal tract? Nature really is amazing, even if it grosses me out to think about this. Hookworms are not just after your food in your intestinal tract, they are also after your blood. Mike Leahy said hookworms can literally “bleed you dry.”
Bulinus Snails & Schistosomiasis
Bulinus snails are found in fresh water and carry a parasite called Schistosomiasis, which can cause a disease that infects your brain and other organs. Perhaps you have heard of the form called “Swimmer’s Itch.” The parasite from the Bulinus Snails go into your blood stream and go to your liver, where they mature and grow bigger until they can crawl up to other parts of your body like to your brain and intestines. You can have Schistosomiasis and not know it for years. I don’t know about you, but it really freaked me out to hear Leahy tell Dr Oz that we could all have something living in us right now that is silently killing us. It was also concerning to hear Dr Oz say that the vast majority of doctors do not think about parasitic infections much. If you want to be learn more about parasites (and be grossed out more!) you can see more on Animal Planet’s show called Monsters Within Me.