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An Encyclopedia of Parasites
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Learn the truth parasites from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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July 2009

The Dermatopathology Institute analyzes the current stories making headlines in dermatology with a viewpoint from the microscope, helping you to truly understand all of the nuances of the disease.

Parasites come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are worms while others are microscopic. The skin is often the site of many initial infections and may be an important clue to an internal infection. A qualified health care professional trained to recognize these infections is an invaluable resource as the world's geographic boundaries shrink.

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The Dermatopathology Institute
How Can a Dermatopathologist Help Me?
Cutaneous Larval Migrans The Migrating Parasite!

This photograph of a patient's foot shows the winding and tortuous course that some worms may take in roaming through our body. Parasites need the proper host to be able to thrive and reproduce. Unfortunately, the disease that is shown above is the result of a parasite that does not have a human as its ideal host. This disease, known as cutaneous larva migrans, is an apt description of what actually happens. The offending worm, in this case a dog hookworm, finds its way through a break in the skin, usually the foot. In an attempt to find the bloodstream, the larva burrows into the skin but is usually unable to escape and continues to form burrows in the skin leading to reddening and occasionally blisters. Other larva may burrow even deeper in the skin leading to an intense inflammatory reaction and occasionally secondary bacterial infections.

While the clinical diagnosis is usually strongly suspected, a biopsy may may be important to determine what type of parasite is causing the rash. With such a biopsy, the dermatopathologist may occasionally identify the organism within the layers of the superficial skin, leading to a rapid and definitive diagnosis.

Medical Terms You Should Know
Dracunculus medinensis

The definition of a parasite is an organism that lives in, within, or on another organism, taking its nourishment from the other organism. Usually, but not always, the parasitic organism exists to the detriment and sometimes death of its host. Parasites may range from microscopic organisms to large worms like the photo above depicts. This is Dracunculus medinensis, also known as the Guinea worm. Natives may remove the worm by using a stick or cloth and literally twirling it from their flesh.

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Parasitic infections cause untold disease and destruction. Always remember to practice good hygiene and observe safe travel practices.

Please call or email us to schedule a consultation for you or your loved ones.
Thank you!

Paul K. Shitabata, M.D.
President and Medical Director
Dermatopathology Institute