University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Diseases Spread by Flies: Myiasis and African Trypanosomoiasis

Image: “Piophilia casei.” John Curtis. Pre 1840. British Entomolgy. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).


Myiasis is caused when a fly’s larvae burrow into a person’s skin or a fly deposits its larvae on or near an open sore. Some flies also attach their eggs to mosquitoes who then pass on the eggs with their bite. As the larva grows, a lump develops. Treatment can be occluding the air hole or physically pressing around the lesion to force the larva to the surface for removal or removal by incision. Myiasis generally does not occur in the United States except in travelers who have been to tropical areas. Animals are also subject to myiasis and can be a difficult, ongoing problem resulting in economic losses to owners of domestic animals.


African Trypanosomoiasis (Sleeping Sickness)

Image: Tsetse Fly. Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Spread by the salivary glands of infected Tsetse flies in Africa, sleeping sickness is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei gambiense or Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense.

Symptoms include a boil-like sore at the site of the bite, fever, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and joint pain. Once the infection invades the central nervous system, progressive neurologic problems occur. When untreated, sleeping sickness is 100% fatal.

Treatment for this disease is with anti-parasitic drugs that should be taken as soon as possible.