Updated 25 August 2016

When mango worms get under your skin

Hanging your clothes outside to dry in areas of high tropical rainfall can be risky if they are not ironed properly

Hanging your clothes outside to dry in areas of high tropical rainfall can be risky if they are not ironed properly. Mango flies or myiatic flies are common in these areas, especially during the hot and humid summers.

If clothes are hung outside, it is possible for a female fly to lay eggs on them, especially when the clothes were contaminated with urine or faeces. The clothes are then worn and the eggs penetrate the skin. People will usually complain that their body is itching and within three days, painful, boil-like lesions occur.

Over the next three days, pus emerges from each sore as it gets ripe. Once the sore is expressed a worm comes out of it.

The fly is found widely in large parts of northern South Africa, as well as large parts of Africa. Dogs and rodents are usually the hosts, but humans often become accidental hosts.

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A strange skin condition

The condition is known as cutaneous myiasis, a skin condition caused by Cordylobia Anthropophaga (tumbu fly, mango fly, putsi fly). According to the Natural History Museum in London, myiasis can be a debilitating and sometimes even fatal condition. It is caused by the feeding and development of fly larvae on the host's dead or living tissues, usually at the skin surface or in body orifices.

Treatment usually consists applying the lesion with petroleum jelly or liquid paraffin to suffocate the larva. Treatment should be left on for 30 minutes to an hour and then the larva should be pushed out via finger pressure. A course of antibiotics is then followed.

Read: this new antibiotic treats skin infections qiuicker

Do your ironing
It is very important to iron all clothes with a hot iron as it will kill any eggs laid on them. The other possibility is not to wear them for 48 hours after they have dried, as this is longer than the lifespan of the eggs. As another preventative measure, clothes should not be left on the ground to dry. This applies to all garments including sheets, towels and bedding.

If you suspect you may have been infected by the larvae of a mango fly, it is important that you see a doctor immediately. Attempting to remove the larva yourself could cause severe pain, rupturing and inflammation.


Read more:

Cover your kids' heads - super lice are here!
The creepy crawlies on our skin that live with us forever
All about scabies and how to treat an infestation

Image: mango fly by Andrei Mihalca for TrekNature


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