You may have heard the urban legend that tells us a spider took advantage of an open wound on a human and laid its eggs there. Sometime later, this person became an incubator for scores of little 8-legged orphans. We say orphans, because how on Earth could mother have kept tabs on her little ones. This is in fact a myth, as spiders just can’t lay eggs in human skin. Your body is a breeding ground, though, make no mistake about that. Mites live on our skin, bed down in our eyelashes, while microscopic bacteria make a home in our intestines. In fact, trillions of microbes live in and on us. What’s more unappealing is when the living things become the enemy, sometimes frighteningly so, and that’s what we’ll talk about today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Horrifying things that can be living inside us.
Perhaps one of the most commonly seen invasions of horrible living things in the human body is the tapeworm. Recent reports explain how a man in India had a 6.6 foot (2 meters) long tapeworm make the man’s gut its living quarters. The worm was removed via the man’s mouth in quite distressing fashion. These things can grow up to 11.5 feet ( 3.5 meters) and can go unnoticed as they don’t always cause pain. A report in 2012 showed Indian doctors removing one from a man’s eye. The larvae from the worms can get into undercooked meat and fish and this is how they get into humans. They could also live in human feces and then get onto the hands of humans if we don’t wash them properly after going to the toilet. It’s unusual they make it to a person’s eyes, but if they get past there and reach the brain then trouble will follow.
Tape worms aren’t so bad if you’ve seen rather paunchy bot flies being removed from a human body. There’s only one type that often chooses humans to lay its eggs and that is a kind of tick named, Dermatobia hominis. This parasite burrows into the skin and when removed looks like a maggot, only that maggot can be as long as one inch (2.5 cm). When they grow, you’ll know about it as it gets uncomfortable. As Wired magazine points out, they “rotate in their little burrows in your skin, and this creates this sort of intense shooting periodic pain.” It’s impressive how it happens. The botfly grabs a flying mosquito in mid-flight and sticks its eggs to the underside of it. When the mozzie finds you the larvae feel the warmth of your body and decide to make a home there. Watching what an infestation of these things looks like may put you off your bowl of rice. It’s fairly common, too, so you can watch the removal videos until your heart’s content.
What about the tiny fish that tunnels into your penis when you take a leak in the river. Well, this tale of Amazonian horror is more fact than fiction, even though European scientists of yore published papers on this mysterious fish, called the candiru. The story goes, it burrows into the urethra and then begins a campaign of causing you absolute misery. The problem is, even though tales abound in the Amazon about this fish, enough to exhort local fisherman to tie up their baloney, an investigation by the BBC found only one case had ever been officially reported. According to the BBC, “After hours of surgery, urologist Dr Anoar Samad managed to extract the fish, dragging its carcass back out through the unfortunate patient’s penis.”
Often regarded as one of the worst things that can happen to you is an invasion of what’s known as Screwworms. The Screwworm fly looks for a place to lay its eggs and unfortunately a human being is regarded as a workable host. The problem is, the maggots have teeth and they burrow farther into you, sometimes right into the nerve tissue. If you annoy them, they keep on burrowing. This can lead to intense pain or even death. A British tourist came quite close after a trip to Peru. When she arrived back to the UK, she heard scratching sounds in her head and started getting shooting pains down her face. After numerous trips to the doctor, it was found her ear was filled with these flesh-eating bugs. She had to have emergency surgery to remove what the surgeons called a “writhing mass of maggots” that had begun chewing their way through her ear canal. Had they been left alone, things would have gotten much worse. Some journals explain the agony as being eaten alive from the inside as these horror-bugs screw farther into you.
A disease you’ve probably all heard about is elephantiasis, wherein parts of the body are grossly swollen. You may not have known that the major cause of this is because of a parasite carried by a mosquito that then enters a human. These are called filarial worms, and they block the lymphatic vessels and cause a build-up of fluid, which often affects the limbs and genital regions. It’s thought about 39 million people are affected globally by lymphatic filariasis, which may or may not develop into people having oversized parts of the body. There is no cure because the worms reproduce inside of you, although surgery can be successful. Infections are most common in Africa, Central and South America, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The main thing is try not to get bitten, and if you do always make sure to clean your wounds.
A much more common infestation is that of scabies. Just recently it was reported that everyone at a private jail in Nashville, Tennessee, had to be treated for scabies. That also included the staff. Scabies is the result of scores of parasitic ticks burrowing into human skin. They can be spread by people or by touching surfaces where they are waiting. They’ll make you itch like crazy, but the more you itch the worse it gets. Anyone can be infected and it exists just about everywhere. It may just end up looking like a graze on the skin, but the worse-case scenario would be to develop what’s known as Norwegian scabies. Also known as crusted scabies, it is the result of a compromised immune system not attacking the mites and hundreds of thousands of them living on you. The result can be skin that turns into hard scales, making part of you look like a stone man from Game of Thrones.
The next one may not be the most gross of infestations, but it’s certainly one that has driven people to utter despair. These are called bird mites, critters that don’t seem to be fully understood and provoke a wide degree of speculation. The bird mites usually live on birds, but occasionally make humans their host. Cases have arisen when the mite’s bird host has passed away and the tiny, not quite microscopic mites, attempt to find a new place to live. People sometimes refer to them as ticklers, as unlike some mites, they are big enough to cause a tickling sensation when they run over your face or body. Even when people have washed and bleached everything, fogged their houses, sometimes even moved house, changed cars, bought all new clothes and bed sheets, they’re still there. Forums reveal how people have breakdowns attempting to get rid of these things. “I don’t know how I can ‘win’ this war if I keep the mites to a minimum at home but they are all over the work site area,” said one person. “There are days when it is all I can do not to break down and cry at work.” People have also talked about committing suicide on web forums because of these mites. One of the worst things is that because people feel them running around on their body, but they are incredibly difficult to see, they sometimes feel they have lost their minds. At the same time other people tell them they must be suffering from a kind of bird mite psychosis. The feeling of insects crawling on the skin is also a well-known, sometimes LSD-induced, tactile hallucination called delusional parasitosis. There seems to be a lack of scientific evidence supporting prolonged infestations, which doesn’t help the case of sufferers’ mental health. In response to one bird bite host on a forum, a person replied, “You should talk to your doctor about possible causes for your perceptions of biting sensations other than mites or insects.”
So, which of these horrifying things is the most horrifying to you? Tell us why in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Illegal Things that You Do Every Day! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!