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Friday, 26 July 2013 02:49(DailyMail) – A British woman returned from doing charity work in Africa to find flesh-eating maggots living - and wriggling - in her stomach.
Catherine Stewart, 28, from Liverpool, visited The Gambia to better understand how the charity she worked for in the UK was helping the West African country's inhabitants.
When she returned to the UK and discovered several bites on her body she wasn't worried - but as one turned yellow she thought she should investigate it further.
Squeezing the lesion revealed she was infested with the larvae of the tumbu fly which gorge on human flesh.
'There were just a few red circles that looked like bites [when I was in The Gambia], but when I got home I found more,' she said.
'When I found a yellow one on my stomach I just thought it was just a small infected bite with pus and thought squeezing it might help,'
'But as I squeezed I felt something pull back [into the skin]. I immediately thought there was something wrong.'
Catherine immediately called her husband Paul and asked him to help.
'I called for him to grab some tweezers and then asked him if he could pull out whatever it was that was moving under my skin if I squeezed.' Paul then pulled out a large maggot.
'I started screaming and saying "No, no, please tell me it's not a maggot!". Paul then looked at me and said "I think we need to go to hospital",' she recalled.
Before they sought medical help Paul and Catherine managed to pull out a further six maggots.
Catherine's ordeal features in a new Discovery Channel documentary, called 'Bugs, Bites and Parasites' that follows the work of specialists who are faced with patients exhibiting a variety of mysterious symptoms - more often than not from people who have travelled abroad.
Catherine visited Liverpool Royal University Hospital's School of Tropical Medicine, a world leader in the field of mysterious illnesses.
In the programme Catherine presents the maggots in a small bottle for specialist registrar Dr Helen Winslow to analyse.
Grimly, they are still alive and writhing.
">Video Further inspection reveals that they are in fact tumbu larvae, flesh-eating maggots that burrow under a person's skin to feast on flesh.
The female tumbu fly lays its eggs on damp clothing or towels.
If damp fabrics come into contact with human skin, then the eggs penetrate the skin.
Doctors advise that to prevent catching the larvae, clothes should be tumble-dried or, if they are left to dry outside, ironed, as the heat kills the eggs.
After two or three days, the larvae hatch beneath the skin.
Once born, the larvae need air to breathe so they eat their way out of their host. This can cause significant pain and irritation to the surrounding tissue.
Instead, the best way to get rid of the maggots is to cover the wound with Vaseline. This cuts off the maggot's air supply and forces it to come to the surface for oxygen.
After Dr Winslow's examination and extractions, Catherine is ordered to carry out a daily body check each morning for a week.
By the end of the week Catherine is given the all-clear and says that she is already planning another trip to the same area.
'The charity work I do is very important and nothing - not even flesh-eating tumbu flies - is going to stop me from doing it,' she said.
Written by Rachel Reilly
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