Deadly Parasite That Enters Body Through Bare Feet Is Spreading In America

By Jason Hall

November 5, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

A Texas community is dealing with the spread of an intestinal parasite that inhabits the guts of humans and other animals and excretes larvae during defecation.

The Guardian reports 16 residents in Rancho Vista, Texas -- located within an hour from Austin -- were notified that they were infected by Strongyloides after giving blood and stool samples to a noted university conducting a study researching the spread of the parasite.

The report confirms the individuals included a woman who was pregnant and a 2-year-old child.

Strongyloides are capable of contaminating soil due to a sewage leak and surviving up to three weeks. It's common for the parasite to burrow through the skin of a person walking barefoot, enter their bloodstream and lungs and rise into the windpipe, where Strongyloides are coughed up and swallowed.

The central Texas community was chosen as the location of a study given its previous widespread sanitation failure, poverty levels and willingness to participate, according to a scientific paper.

However, the town's parasite infection was previously unknown given researchers labeled it anonymously as "Community A" and residents are concerned no one capable of helping will lend them aid.

Rancho Vista has an estimated 400 homes on a small number of streets. Its population is mostly comprised of Mexican Americans or immigrants from Mexico, many of which who work in lower-paying fields, according to the Guardian.

Residents say that despite paying high taxes, the town still deals with packs of stray dogs, which play a key factor in the widespread of parasites and swirls of trash, creating an airborne smell of sewage.

Strongyloides are considered to be one of the most neglected soil-transmitted parasites as doctors who lack training in tropical medicine are unable to recognize them and aren't mandated to report findings to state authorities.

However, more than half a billion individuals globally are estimated to be infected, which includes detected infections in U.S. areas such as Appalachia and Los Angeles County.

Strongyloides -- though, at times, symptomless -- are the deadliest of soil-transmitted parasites as it's capable of multiplying throughout the body and causing death in individuals with lower immune systems.

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