South America, and has been inadvertently introduced by humans to sub-Saharan Africa.
Synonyms for Tunga penetrans include Sarcopsylla penetrans, Pulex penetrates, and many others. In its parasitic phase it has significant impact on its host, which include humans and certain other mammalian species. A parasitical infestation of T. penetrans is called tungiasis.
T. penetrans is the smallest known flea, at only 1 mm. It is most recognizable in its parasite phase. While embedded under the stratum corneum layer of the skin, it may reach up to 1 cm across. During the first day or two of infestation, the host may feel an itching or irritation which then passes as the area around the flea calluses and becomes insensitive. As the flea’s abdomen swells with eggs later in the cycle, the pressure from the swelling may press neighbouring nerves or blood vessels. Depending on the exact site, this can cause sensations ranging from mild irritation to serious discomfort.
MEDICAL CONDITION: The condition depicted is known as “Tungiasis”. It is an infestation of the skin by a burrowing flea called chigoe fleas. These fleas tend to infest those who have inadequate living conditions and sanitation. The flea lives both outside around warm-blooded mammals and inside poorly constructed homes. It inhabits dust on floors, cracks in walls and bedding. Shoes protect to some degree but are often not affordable or adequate. More needs to be done to ensure a flea-free environment, including extermination and sanitation measures, improvements in home construction and making clean bedding more commonplace.
The parasites burrow into the skin and then swell up with eggs; the larvae hatch and the cycle continues. Fleas cause untold suffering in the afflicted, interfering with sleep, and causing itching, pain and the inability to walk. The parasite can afflict all parts of the body. Victims are often socially stigmatized, left isolated and without family or communal support.
In this video you are seeing the sand fleas being removed from human skin. Viewer discretion is advised!