Health

May 11, 2024

Mosquito bite leads to 17-year penile swelling, man finally cured

Mosquito bite leads to 17-year penile swelling, man finally cured

By Sola Ogundipe

A 72-year-old man in Switzerland finally found relief after 17 years of suffering from chronic inflammation in his groin area involving his male organ. The cause, as doctors at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland discovered, was a parasitic infection contracted through mosquito bites decades earlier.

The man, who remained anonymous, had experienced significant swelling in his penis, scrotum, and left leg. The case as reported by doctors at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, said on examination, the inflammation was severe, with bloodwork showing double the normal levels. Further investigation identified the culprit: microscopic worms responsible for a condition known as lymphatic filariasis.

An antibody test came back positive for Wuchereria bancrofti, which are microscopic, thread-like worms. Infections are caused by mosquito bites, which transfer the larvae into the bloodstream. Once they hatch, they travel into the lymph system — a circulatory network used to drain fluid. This carries them to other areas of the body, including the scrotum. They then mature, mate and produce millions of offspring.

The Zimbabwean patient was prescribed diethylcarbamazine and a single dose of albendazole – two powerful anti-parasitic drugs which kill the worms. Thankfully, the man responded well to anti-parasitic medication. Within two months of completing the treatment, his symptoms completely resolved. This case, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, highlights the importance of seeking medical attention for persistent and unusual symptoms, even if they are considered embarrassing.

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The specific mosquito species involved in transmission of the infection include Aedes, Anopheles, Culex, Mansonia, and Coquillettida juxtamansonia. The wide range of mosquito bites over several months to years is needed to contract lymphatic filariasis.

Infections with the parasitic worm are relatively common in tropical and sub-tropical areas including parts of Africa, Asia and South America. People need to be bitten repeatedly by infected mosquitoes over several months to get infected. Those living for a long time in tropical or subtropical areas where the disease is common are at the greatest risk of infection. Normally, the worms do not cause any symptoms.

But in some cases damage to the lymph system causes fluid to start building up in the legs triggering lymphedema. In cases where there is gross swelling of limbs, patients are diagnosed with elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis).

In men, the parasitic worms can also prompt swelling in the genital area. Swelling can become so severe that it leads to disfigurement and mobility issues for sufferers.

Wuchereria bancrofti, the causative agent of lymphatic filariasis, is transmitted by several different mosquito species depending on the geographical area. In Africa, the most common vectors for W. bancrofti are Anopheles mosquitoes.

There are an estimated 100 million active infections worldwide, with most infected individuals living in sub-Saharan Africa. People living in tropical or sub-tropical areas where the disease is common are at the greatest risk for infection, while short-term tourists have a very low risk.