Parasite hitches ride in flesh of teacher’s arm

Arriving home from a winter break trip to Belize, upper school math teacher Kevin Weis completed his customs declaration form without a thought. He filled in his personal information and his passport number. 

The form asked him whether he had brought back fruits or vegetables, disease, soil or animals. He checked no for all of them. Unbeknownst to Weis, however, as he wrote out his information, a small parasite was growing beneath his flesh on the underside of his arm.

Weis came back from the tropics with several bug bites. While most of the bites began to subside, the one underneath his arm was growing.

Once school resumed, he told one of his classes, in jest, that the strange bite was a parasite. A student in this class explained Weis’ symptoms to upper school science teacher Blaise Eitner, who told the student that it might be a botfly.  Botfly eggs are carried by mosquitoes and are deposited under the skin of an animal when the mosquito bites, according to Eitner.

After approximately eight weeks of growth in the body, the botfly larva will drop out and continue to grow in the soil.  It will then lay its eggs on another mosquito and the cycle continues.

When Eitner’s suspicions got back to Weis, he went online to learn everything he could. One website told him that a method to get rid of the bug is to smear petroleum jelly over the bite, depriving the larva of air.  He found out that after eight weeks in the body, the larva would pop out and result in no harm to the human host. Weis figured that the mosquito carrying the eggs had bit him on Dec. 16, so the larva was growing in his body for about a month.

He put the jelly over the area, put on a Band-Aid and waited for 24 hours. When he took the bandage off, about half a centimeter of the larva was poking out of the hole.

The milky body had dark circles of tiny hooks, which held the larva in his skin. Weis pinched the larva out, took it to the doctor and preserved it in formaldehyde.

“Why wouldn’t I keep it?” he said. “It’s probably the oddest (and perhaps coolest) souvenir one could bring home from visiting another country.  I got to keep a very little piece of Belize.”