Roundworms and hookworms infect billions of people all around the world causing a variety of diseases, very often involving anaemia and diarrhoea. Picture: Julie Balen, Queensland Institute of Medical Research.
Roundworms and hookworms infect billions of people all around the world causing a variety of diseases, very often involving anaemia and diarrhoea. Picture: Julie Balen, Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

Embarrassing pics take down major study

JUST when a couple thought it couldn't get any worse after a parasitic worm ruined their Caribbean cruise - pictures of their infected buttocks appeared all over the national newspapers.

The pictures of the UK husband and wife's bare bodies covered "red pinprick marks" had been taken from a British Medical Journal (BMJ) study into worms and it has now been taken down.

The unnamed couple realised something was amiss when they were sat at a beach on the island paradise Martinique.

According to the BMJ paper, which was previously available online, they reported feeling an initial burning sensation on their skin as they sat on the sand.

Just one day later, the 52-year-old woman noticed a rash of "red pinprick marks" had appeared across her buttocks, the report states.

The infection took place while the couple were on a Caribbean cruise. Picture: Getty Images.
The infection took place while the couple were on a Caribbean cruise. Picture: Getty Images.

She was rushed to hospital 15 days after the initial infection with signs of a dry cough, shortness of breath and chest pain.

According to The Independent, the pair later sought treatment at a hospital in Cambridge. Doctors told them they had cutaneous larva migrans, also known as hookworm larvae.

Hookworms can affect your lungs, skin, and small intestine.

"Cutaneous larva migrans is a dermatological condition caused by parasitic hookworm infection," said the report.

"The hookworm larvae are excreted in the faeces of the infected animal host (usually dog or cat) onto sandy beaches or moist soil, where they can penetrate into the epidermis of human skin on contact.

"Initial symptoms typically include localised burning pruritus at the site of entry followed by the appearance of a slowly creeping, serpiginous rash over the next days to weeks.

"The palpable, twisting lesions are approximately 2mm wide and typically spread 10-50mm from the site of entry, which is usually the soles of the feet but may be any body site."

The couple was treated with medication to treat parasitic infections after a round of steroids and antibiotics they were given on the cruise ship failed to work.

But, according to The Independent, a doctor at the UK hospital decided to share the case through the BMJ after noting a "lack of familiarity with the condition" - which he said had delayed his team from making a diagnosis.

Hookworm infections occur in an estimated 576 to 740 million people worldwide. Picture: Supplied.
Hookworm infections occur in an estimated 576 to 740 million people worldwide. Picture: Supplied.

This alerted journalists from UK tabloids to the photographs which were soon plastered across several publications.

Just days of the findings were published, the photographs were being run next to stories with headlines such as "Caribbean getaway leaves a nasty souvenir" and "Beach couple left with burning red rashes on their backsides".

Hookworms can infiltrate the human body through their larvae found in dirt contaminated by faeces, according to Healthline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hookworm infections occur in an estimated 576 to 740 million people worldwide. It mainly affects people in developing nations in the tropics and subtropics due to poor sanitation.

News Corp Australia

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