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Botfly in humans: what is it and how to remove it

Botfly is an infectious type of disease that is caused by the Dermatobium hominis species of fly, which is gray with black stripes on the thorax and a metallic blue abdomen. It arises when the larva of the fly enters the skin, even when the skin is not broken, leading to the appearance of a painful wound with pus.

These flies are usually found in humid, mountainous areas of Brazil, being uncommon in the North east of the country, and it is important that they are controlled. As soon as symptoms appear, it is important to have the larva removed as quickly as possible, if not, more infection could occur, causing harm to one’s health.

Skin wound provoked by botfly
Skin wound provoked by botfly
Larva of the fly Dermatobium hominis
Larva of the fly Dermatobium hominis

Main signs and symptoms

After the eggs are laid by the female botfly, the larvae hatch after about six days, and rapidly penetrate the skin, even if unbroken, causing some signs and symptoms as follows:

  • Formation of wounds on the skin, with redness and slight swelling on the region;
  • Release of a yellowish or bloody fluid from the sores on the skin;
  • Sensation of something stirring under the skin;
  • Pain or intense itching at the wound site.

The diagnosis of botfly in humans is usually made by a dermatologist or infectologist through the observation of the wounds on the skin.

How to remove a botfly

Before removing the larva, it is important that it is already dead, or small fragments of the body could be left in the skin, making their removal more difficult. The removal should be guided by a physician, one of the ways being by asphyxia, where a tape is stuck over the larva and left there for about an hour. On removal, it is necessary to check that the larva has been removed, if not, extra pressure must be applied. It’s important to treat the region with antibiotic ointments, prescribed by the doctor, to prevent further infection.

If this is ineffective, treatment consists of the removal of the larva that is beneath the skin by a doctor with the use of tweezers. In more severe cases, it may be necessary to perform a minor surgery to cut the skin and widen the hole, allowing the larva to be removed, or use anti-parasitic medication to kill the larva.

How to avoid getting a botfly

Some of the best ways to avoid an infection of botfly include:

  • Close windows and doors after it gets dark;
  • Use nets on the windows;
  • Avoid having food or liquids accumulating indoors;
  • Use mosquito repellent, especially in areas most affected by this type of fly.

In addition, in tropical regions it is recommended to iron all clothing before dressing, especially if it has been drying outside the house, since the eggs of the fly may stick to the fabric.

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  • NEVES, David P. Parasitologia Humana. 12 ed. Atheneu, 2011. 423; 428-429.
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