Tungiasis — an infectious disease from a burrowing flea – is usually acquired or diagnosed in South or Central America, and it can be picked up by travelers. When fourth-year College of Medicine student Mansee Desai and her NEOMED mentor Joseph P. Myers, M.D., professor of internal medicine, came across a rare case of the disease, they took the opportunity to study it. Desai recently presented her research on U.S.A.-acquired tungiasis at the 2018 Society of General Internal Medicine Midwest Regional Meeting in Chicago.
“My interests lie at the nexus of dermatology and infectious disease, and I have been fortunate to not only be mentored by Dr. Myers but to work with him on a rare case of tungiasis that was diagnosed in Ohio,’’ says Desai. The patient had acquired the disease after traveling to Florida. After further complications from a secondary bacterial infection, tungiasis was diagnosed in Ohio. The case has led to poster and oral presentations, along with a co-authored manuscript that was accepted for publication in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice.
Desai explains that the infection is cause by penetration of a female sand flea into the epidermis (outer skin) of the animal host. In unvaccinated populations, untreated tungiasis is a risk factor for developing tetanus, says Desai.