Unusual lump on woman's face turns out to be a live worm

Grant Boone
June 23, 2018

A woman in Russian Federation found a lump on her face that turned out to be a parasitic worm crawling under her skin.

Soon after the lump's latest migration, the 32-year-old woman went to an eye doctor, who also observed a "superficial moving oblong nodule at the left upper eyelid" - in other words, a lump - according to a new report of the case, published today (June 20) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Two weeks after she noticed the lump, the woman finally made a decision to have it checked.

But five days later it had done something face lumps don't usually do. Further, the worm made its way up to the woman's upper lip in the next ten days.

According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the parasite was fixed with forceps and removed surgically.

"The parasite can appear and disappear in few minutes", Dr. Vladimir Kartashev, a professor of medicine at Rostov State Medical University who saw the patient, told CNN in an email.

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During surgery, the doctors discovered that the lump was a long, white worm.

But Kartashev had seen "at least 10 patients with the same presentation before", and the migrating form can be "extremely confusing", he said. Turns out, she had a particular kind of parasitic worm, Dirofilaria repens, living under her skin. However, luckily, these worms can nearly never reproduce in humans, and all symptoms usually disappear quickly if the worm is removed - so if you've noticed any odd lumps moving around your body after a mosquito bite, you should probably get to a doctor.

It is not the first case like this reported in Europe.

If a human is infected by D. repens, the typical symptoms are itching, burning, and some swelling around the area of what is called the "nodule".

Vladimir Kartashev, a professor of medicine at Rostov State Medical University who treated the woman in the case study, noted that almost 1,300 cases of the parasite were reported in Russian Federation and Belaru, Women's Health said. In rare cases, the worms can squirm into organs, such as lungs, breasts, male genitalia, and eyes. In a 2009 case report, one strain of the parasite even caused meningoencephalitis, or inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membranes.

Infections caught from these worms are known collectively as filariasis - the World Health Organisation says 856 million people around the world are at risk of the infection.

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