A Russian woman bugged by a strange lump on her face was even more shocked to discover the cause: a live worm.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the 32-year-old woman first noticed strange nodules below her left eye that later moved above her eye and then down to her upper lip. She told doctors the nodules appeared after she visited a rural area outside Moscow, where she was bitten repeatedly by mosquitoes.
The nodules caused occasional itching and burning, but she said she had no other symptoms.
Doctors quickly identified the suspect ― a long, parasitic roundworm called Dirofilaria reopens typically spread by mosquitoes and hosted by dogs and other carnivores. They removed the squirming lump from the woman’s face using local anesthetic and a pair of forceps.
It could have been worse, according to Natalia Pshenichnaya, a physician who studies infectious diseases at Rostov State Medical University in Rostov, Russia.
She told NPR that in 20 percent of cases, the worms can “move considerable distances,” such as from the upper eyelid to the buttocks.
Even worse: The worm can live up to two years in the human body if it isn’t removed.
Luckily, it rarely causes disease in humans, according to Dr. Jorgen Kurtzhals, professor at University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital, and president of the World Federation of Parasitologists.
Still, Kurtzhals acknowledged that just the thought of such a critter can get under some people’s skin.
“A lot of people have a fear of contracting worms of various kinds,” Kurtzhals told CNN. “I think it is important not to scare people. This is still a very rare condition ― despite the apparently rising numbers.”