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Guinea worm (GW) disease, caused by Dracunculus medinensis, is an almost eradicated waterborne zoonotic disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently lists GW as endemic in only five African countries. In July 2020, the Vietnamese public health surveillance system detected a hanging worm in a 23-year-old male patient, who did not report any travel to Africa or any country previously endemic for GW. The patient was hospitalized with symptoms of fatigue, anorexia, muscle aches, and abscesses, with worms hanging out of the skin in the lower limbs. The worms were retrieved from the lesions and microscopically examined in Vietnam, identifying structures compatible with Dracunculus spp. and L1-type larvae. A section of this parasite was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, United States, for confirmatory diagnosis of GW. The adult worm had cuticle structures compatible with Dracunculus parasites, although the length of L1 larvae was about 339 μm, substantially shorter than D. medinensis. DNA sequence analysis of the 18S small subunit rRNA gene confirmed that this parasite was not GW, and determined that the sample belonged to a Dracunculus sp. not previously reported in GenBank that clustered with the animal-infective Dracunculus insignis and Dracunculus lutrae, located in a different clade than D. medinensis. This study highlights the importance of effective public health surveillance systems and the collaborative work of local public health authorities from Vietnam with the WHO and CDC in efforts to achieve the eradication of GW.

Original publication




Journal article


International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

Publication Date





739 - 742


National Hospital for Tropical Diseases 2, Hanoi, Vietnam.