How This Woman Got A Maggot In Her Groin While On Vacation

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Pictured here are human botfy maggots. Adult human botflies capture mosquitoes and some small flies in midair and deposit their eggs on the insects’ bellies. These host insects then can surreptitiously land on warm-blooded animals, including humans, and at 98¼ temperature, the eggs immediately hatch and small maggots quickly burrow beneath skin and grow into very huge maggots which eat the host’s flesh, causing great pain with each bite it takes. The feces of the maggot causes severe infection. The maggot has spines on its body which can cause pain when it moves inside flesh. The maggot matures, drops out of the festering wound into forest leaf litter and quickly grows wings to fly off and repeat cycle. Oh, and Happy Halloween! (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

What would qualify as a bad vacation? How about getting a maggot in your groin?

There aren’t too many situations where maggots and vacation go well together. The same thing is true with the words “maggot” and “groin”, unless you are kneeing a maggot in the groin, wherever that may be. Put all 3 words together, and you may just end up as a case report in the Journal of Investigative Medicine High Impact Case Reports, like a 36 year old woman from Tampa, Florida.

After the woman had returned from vacationing in Belize, she noticed a lesion in her left groin and saw her primary care physician. Her primary care physician prescribed her sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic. However, despite some improvement the red swollen area in her groin remained. Subsequently at Tampa General Hospital, doctors found a small hard mass under the lesion. A surgeon removed the mass and found a human botfly larva.

Here’s a video showing the lesion and the larva if you want to be a bit grossed out:

Otherwise known as Dermatobia hominis, this insect normally dwells in Central and South America, from Mexico to Northern Argentina, with the exception of Chile.

Want an even more lovely image? Picture a female human botfly laying eggs on another insect such as a mosquito or a fly. Then imagine that mosquito or fly feeding on your skin. When exposed to the heat from your skin, these little botfly eggs hatch. Out of the eggs come larvae, which then grows inside your skin for 27 to 128 days. Once the larva has grown into an adult, it drops to the ground, forms a sac-like structure, and then emerges from this sac 27 and 78 days later as an adult botfly. Doesn’t this make you feel warm and tingly all over?

This woman has what’s called furuncular myiasis, a hard raised skin lesion that has an area of dead skin tissue in the middle. It can hurt and be itchy, which is a bad combination. Also, you may even feel the larvae moving under the lesion, which is just wonderful.

How do you diagnose this condition? Well, finding fly larvae or maggots is a good clue. Otherwise, there is no specific “maggot in body” screening test. As a result, patients may get misdiagnosed initially. This condition can affect many different parts of your body, such as your scalp, limbs, eyes, breasts, and, yes, your genitals, depending on where you have been bitten by a fly or mosquito. 

The case report, authored by Mina Shenouda, MD, Garrett Enten, BS, Thanh Nguyen, MD, Devanand Mangar, MD, and Enrico Camporesi, MD from the TEAMHealth Research Institute in Tampa, indicated that surgical removal of the larva is not always necessary. They describe local residents in Belize suffocated the larvae by putting petroleum jelly, nail polish, plant extracts, or bacon strips over the central area of the lesion to suffocate the larvae. This will cause the larvae to emerge from the lesion several hours later seeking air. Then you can use tweezers pull out the larvae. Yes, there is actually a potential health benefit from covering your body with bacon.

This type of problem (not the covering in bacon but the myiasis caused by D hominis) is according to the authors of the case report, “rarely seen in the United States. However, it is very common among residents and visitors of the tropical regions of the Americas.”

The lesson from this story? Insects laying eggs on other insects who then bite you and deposit larvae from these eggs in your groin, which can then move around in your groin, making you feel pain and itchy, do not make for a good vacation. But bacon can change that.

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