This is Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Steve Mirsky.Got a minute?
"We expect guinea worm to be the second disease in the history of the world to be completely eradicated from the face of the Earth."
Former President Jimmy Carter, in a conversation with Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on January 12th.
"Can you speak to the Carter Center's work in guinea worm and the progress since you began working on that."
"Guinea worm is a horrible disease, it's an ancient disease, it was known in the Bible as the fiery serpent.
It's the origin of the Caduceus, a symbol for medical doctors.
It's a guinea worm wrapped around a stick as a matter of fact instead of a serpent."
Indeed, a health care worker extracts a guinea worm by wrapping the part of the worm that has already emerged from the skin around a stick and then slowly turning the stick to pull the rest of the worm out.
The Wikipedia entry on guinea worm disease says that "this is nearly the same treatment that is noted in the famous ancient Egyptian medical text, the Ebers papyrus, from 1550 B.C."
"And victims describe the feeling at the site of the worm's emergence as like being on fire.
"We began the eradication of guinea worm from the face of the earth in 1986.
We found the disease in 20 countries, three in Asia and the rest of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
When we completed our survey we had been in 23,500 villages and we found 3.5 million cases of guinea worm then.
Last year we had 126 cases.
"So we have been very pleased so far at what the people themselves have done, who have gone into individual villages, told them what causes the disease, drinking bad water with guinea worm eggs in it and what they can do about it.
Which is primarily to use filter cloths and so forth to take the eggs out of the water before they drink it."
You can hear DiChristina and Jimmy Carter talk about his efforts in women's health and mental health on an upcoming Science Talk podcast.
Thanks for the minute, for Scientific American 60-Second Science. I'm Steve Mirsky.