Couple Visiting Bolivia Became Infected With Flesh-Eating Botflies
An Australian couple got more than they bargained for from their vacation.
Jan. 11, 2013— -- An Australian couple got more than they bargained for from their Bolivian vacation when they became infected with human botfly larvae that grow under the skin and feast on flesh, according to a report on the website Goldcoast.com.au.
Bryan Williams and girlfriend Ally Vagg, both 28 and from Sydney, at first thought the sores they saw littering their bodies were infected mosquito bites -- until they noticed the wounds were moving.
They sought care in Bolivia and learned they had human botfly larvae growing inside them.
Like something out of a frighteningly icky sci-fi movie, the human botfly is a parasite native to Central and South America whose eggs are transported to prospective hosts by dozens of species of mosquitoes, flies and ticks.
Female botflies capture the mosquito, fly or tick, attach up to 50 eggs to it, and then release the insect to find a host to deposit the eggs. The eggs then sense the body heat of the host, hatch and attempt to crawl into the feeding site of the mosquito.
After an incubation period of six to eight weeks during which the botfly feeds under the host's skin, the botfly leaves abruptly without so much as a thank you and matures into an adult.
While touring the Amazon Basin, Williams and Vagg said they'd been bitten numerous times by mosquitoes, the likely source of the botfly invasion of their bodies.
Though botfly infections are rare, travelers to Central and South America should take the necessary steps -- which include wearing long sleeves and applying ample bug repellant -- to avoid excessive mosquito bites,
"They're high on the ick factor," Grayson Brown, director of the Public Health Entomology Laboratory at the University of Kentucky told ABC News. "Botflies are not an epidemic. But there are always a couple dozen cases when travelers return to the United States every year."
Extracting the larvae from the body can be somewhat painful and requires tremendous care to ensure that they're removed in one piece. A quick search on YouTube reveals numerous videos of people attempting to remove these unwelcome companions.
"In areas native to the botfly, the percentage is relatively low of people who come into contact with them, maybe one in 500," said Brown.
As for the Australian couple, they will remain in Bolivia until the infection clears, which could take up to a month.