Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just keeping up my parasite load….

Dangriga, 13 Feb 2007

Scientists speculate that the reason we have so many autoimmune diseases, is because our immune system is set to be at constant war with germs and parasites. In our hygienic modern world, the lack of parasite load leaves the immune system without an enemy and it misdirects its energies towards its own tissues, like bored soldiers brawling with each other. Life in the tropics gives one plenty of opportunity to keep the immune system sharp and well occupied. In the spirit of a healthy immune system I would like to announce I am the proud host of a bouncing baby (read squirming larval) botfly.

Somewhere in my travels, I picked up a botfly egg on my skin. It could have been left on a leaf or even deposited on a mosquito. Once it felt my body heat, the egg hatched and the tiny larva burrowed into my skin. Once there it makes a small sore, just like a fly bite. At the centre of the sore is a tiny hole which it needs to breathe through a thin snorkel. It barely itches, except sometimes at night, when the growing larva repositions itself, and takes a nutritious meal of my ‘surplus’ body fluids.

Getting rid of it is a matter of waiting a few days until it is big enough, and then suffocating it by blocking the air hole. Duct tape works if you can get it to lie flat. The area around the opening has to be shaved first, to get a good seal and make removal of the tape less painful. This is usually done before bed and removed in the morning. You know you have a good seal when you feel him squirm like crazy! As he struggles to get air, he will stretch as far as he can and eventually he will come out, still reaching for air. At this point, ideally, he will stick to the tape and will come out in one piece. Ideally. Sometimes you have to squeeze and pull with forceps or tweezers until he comes out.

My little guest will stay with me awhile. I am thinking of letting him grow to maturity before taking him out. I want to know how big they get.

Next entry will have some photos of the process of removal……


  1. Anonymous3:11 p.m.

    Ahhhh, the botfly. When we looked at traveling to Belize I was intrigued/disgusted by the description of the botfly. I guess it is just another slap in the face by mortality. It is nice to know that we are all just unwilling participants in the food chains and webs of relationships with other organisms. I look forward to the photos, and as always, your posts.

    With respect and admiration
    John and Christie (Kansas city optometrists, Glovers Reef March 2006)

    ps Please try to distance yourself from the food chain of anything larger than a fly.

  2. Anonymous7:07 p.m.

    Hi Jack,
    Last week I had my "bouncing baby botfly" removed. I was the hit of the emergency room at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock where no one had encountered my little critter before. The doctor had a vague recollection from med school and cruised the net for info. After several attempts to grab it with some tweezers and after a little incision, a decision was made to cut off his air supply with a combination of vaseline, polysporin and 4 layers of clear 4"x4"tape. The next morning a small worm protruded. It looked dead and when I flexed to look more closely the whole thing popped out --quite large it was! Infection Control has confirmed it was a botfly. I was given some antibiotics, had a wound culture and some blood work. Had I read your blog first I would have saved myself the trouble!
    Belize was great (Dec.-Jan.8th) and despite the botfly experience I hope to go again one day.