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When you get maggots under your skin!


Veterinary medicine is a medical career that bridges the gap between animal diseases and human diseases. It’s common in veterinary practice to encounter cases of parasitic infestation in humans: the most popular being control of bedbugs, fleas, ticks and jiggers. But this time, I was bewildered by the case of one of our clients who had a brought her dog to our clinic for check-up.


At a glance, the dog had a patch of alopecia around its paws. We initially believed it could be a simple case of an allergic reaction but after a physical examination, with palpation and simply squeezing gently, we were surprised with what we found.


We were expecting pus to come out from the papules. However, we were dismayed to see live maggot-like creatures popping out. The lady almost ran away since was something she was seeing for the first time in her life. We went on with the business of expressing the maggots from the poor dog, now sedated, because it could not bear the excruciating pain emanating from the wounds created from the now empty hollows left by the dead and alive maggots. The maggots are from mango fly and the lady had this to say:


“I have been living in Africa for the last ten months. I have heard of so many stories about people and animal getting mango worms… I never thought the day would happen, when I would get them. For a few days I just thought that I had mosquito bites, but they became really painful… until last night I had to squeeze the bump and sure enough the worm popped out. Now it’s my dog. I am so mad!”


Mango fly (Cordylobia anthrophaga) also known as tumbu fly or skin maggot fly is a type of blow fly common in Africa. It affects all large mammals including man during larval stage. The fly lays its egg on the ground which then hatches to larva stage. The larva then crawls on the ground till they encounter a mammalian host where they penetrate the skin through any available pore or skin opening and settle in the subcutaneous tissue causing nodules. The nodule will then stay under the skin in the subcutaneous tissue till it is fully grown. It will then pop out from the skin, fall down and become a pupa then to a fully grown fly and fly away. The larva prefers attacking the part of the body which is closely in contact with the soil like the feet in humans and paws in dogs and cats.


I looked directly in the eye of my flabbergasted client who was now almost crying, calmed her down and asked not to worry or even crucify the dog because is just a victim of circumstance just as she was. The parasite is transmitted by wild rats and they are usually attracted by smell of urine and moisture. The disease is treatable both in pets as well as in humans. So we sorted out both the client and her dog and both are now living happily as a family.




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