Goodbye to all that. The Guinea worm--emerging here from a human foot--has been swept out of Asia.

Guinea Worm Banished From India

India has finally conquered Guinea worm, making it the second disease after smallpox to be fully eradicated from the country. The disease, which affects mainly the rural poor, is now confined to just 12 African nations, according to an announcement last month from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guinea worm, transmitted through contaminated drinking water, is known to researchers as the giant parasitic roundworm Dracunculus medinensis, a spaghetti-thin wriggler that can grow up to a meter long. The worm spawns in water, where its eggs are taken up and nurtured by Cyclops, an aquatic insect.

Fifty years ago, 25 million Indians suffered from dracunculiasis, a painful, untreatable condition that can cause crippling infections. But a worm-eradication campaign reduced the number of cases to 40,000 by the early 1980s. And Subhash Salunke, a WHO communicable diseases consultant based in New Delhi, says that "if all goes well in the next 4 to 5 years," the world will be Guinea worm-free by 2010.

Posted in Asia, Health