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5 Parasites that Breed On and In Your Skin


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The Chigoe Flea
This image from the CDC shows the chigoe flea in three different stages of development.
This image from the CDC shows the chigoe flea in three different stages of development.
CDC Photo

The chigoe flea is known by many names, including the jigger flea and the sand flea. Regardless of what you call them, the parasite latches onto its host's skin to feed. The flea breathes, defecates and lays eggs through its hindmost pair of legs -- the only part of the flea that remains exposed to air once it latches on.

Female jigger fleas penetrate into the skin of the host and lay hundreds of eggs. This egg-laying period can last up to three weeks. Then, the females die and eventually fall off the host. Once the eggs hatch, the fleas bite their host and continue the cycle. The nodules that form around the fleas may also let in other substances, giving rise to the risk of infection. An infection of chigoe fleas is called tungiasis.

The chigoe is found mainly in South American and African regions. It normally attacks between the toes of hosts but can latch onto other parts of the body as well. The fleas can also cause necrosis -- tissue death -- that often must be removed with surgical tools.


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