10-Year-Old Girl Contracts Parasitic Infection After Playing In Pigsty Mud


A 10-year-old girl contracted a horrific condition after playing in the mud. The child visited a primary care clinic because of itchy papules on the soles of her feet and toes that came along with painful lesions.

Contracted Parasitic Infection After Playing In Muddy Pigsty

In a New England Journal of Medicine image challenge published on March 28, doctors presented the case of the young girl who caught parasitic infection on the soles of her feet.

The girl apparently contracted the infection when her family traveled to rural Brazil, where she was said to have played in a muddy pigsty without wearing shoes.

Doctors removed sand fleas from several of her lesions.

"An otherwise healthy 10-year-old girl presented to the primary care clinic with a 10-day history of multiple itchy papules on the soles of her feet and on her toes. The lesions had black dots in the center and were painful," doctors described her condition.


Symptoms indicate the child contracted Tungiasis, an inflammatory skin disease caused by the female sand flea Tunga penetrans.

The condition occurs when the parasites burrow into the skin, particularly in the sole, toes, lateral rim of the foot and heel. The infected individual starts to experience itching and irritation once the female fleas develop fully and increase their body volume.

The small openings in the skin provide an avenue for the parasites to have contact with air, so they continue to breathe, defecate, and even lay eggs. These parasitic creatures can lay more than a hundred eggs over a two-week period.

It takes two weeks for the infected site to swell up to a diameter of 10 millimeters. The parasitic animals usually die after four and six weeks,. The eggs are then expelled and fall onto the ground.

The condition can make it difficult for the patient to walk. If left untreated, the infection may worsen and lead to bacteremia, which happens when bacteria get into the circulating blood. Untreated tungiasis may also lead to tetanus and gangrene.

Prevalent In Poor Communities

The fleas are often found in place with sandy climate, which include beaches, stables, and farms. The World Health Organization said that tungiasis occurred in nearly all countries in Central America.

"Tungiasis thrives where living conditions are precarious, such as villages located in remote beaches, communities in the rural hinterland and shanty towns of big cities. In these settings the poorest of the poor carry the highest burden of disease," WHO said.

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