“What is this worm?!” asks this reader in the UK about the red-striped worm-like creature pictured below. “Hoping it’s not a harmful parasite.”
To begin with, our reader has not provided any context to go along with the picture, which makes it harder to identify it. And on that note, we must confess that we are not entirely sure what this creature is.
At first, we thought it might be a red midge fly larva, which is a type of bloodworm that feeds on detritus. They can be found in sources of water, especially in water troughs and other bodies of stagnant water where plenty of organic waste would end up. However, as red midge fly larvae are a much deeper shade of red, and are not striped like this one, we had to conclude that this probably is not a red midge fly larva.
That said, we think it might still be a bloodworm of some sort, seeing as it does possess red coloration and, based on what we can tell from the picture, the worm seems to be floating in water (or some kind of liquid). Of course, we do not know that it was actually found in a body of water (as our reader does not state this). Nonetheless, our best guess is that it is a bloodworm.
Bloodworms are any species of worm-like creature that is red in coloration due to the production of an excess amount of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells) which allows them to sustain for long periods of time without oxygen. As such, they often find themselves in bodies of water. Despite their scary name, bloodworms are not harmful to humans or pets: most species, like the red midge fly larva, feed on organic waste.
With all of that said, we must point out our reader’s concern about parasites. Since we do not know the circumstances in which the worm was discovered, we can neither confirm or deny if our reader should be worried about this being a “harmful parasite”. Regardless, we are not medical professionals, so we are not qualified to identify parasites in the first place.
If our reader has reasonable cause to believe this may be a parasite (eg: she is experiencing symptoms, or it came from her body), then we recommend that she consult a medical professional. On top of that, she should disregard everything we said above about bloodworms. So, in this case, what we can recommend is that our reader do one or more of the following:
1) Search for a medical parasitologist in their area using this directory of medical parasitology consultants: https://www.astmh.org/for-astmh-members/clinical-consultants-directory.
2) Search for a local parasitologist by doing a Google search for “medical parasitologist (name of the closest big city)” or “tropical medicine specialist (name of the closest big city)”.
3) Get in touch with Dr. Omar Amin at the Parasitology Center at https://www.parasitetesting.com.
4) Contact Dr. Vipul Savaliya of Infectious Disease Care (“IDCare”) at idcarepa.com.
We should note that both Dr. Amin and Dr. Savaliya are available for online consultation, so our reader does not need to be in the vicinity of their physical offices to get help!
Now, in the case that our reader has no reason to suspect parasites, then we think she is good to just move the worm outside (preferably to a stagnant body of water). Likewise, she should make sure to regularly clean her drains to avoid other detritus-loving organisms from finding their way into her home.
To conclude, we are not sure what the red-striped organism our reader found is. It may be a bloodworm, or it may be something else. It all depends on if our reader has reason to think this might be a parasite. We hope this article helps, and we wish her the very best!