GIIINEA-WORM, known also as filaria medinensis, or F. dracunculus. is a parasitic animal that seems to have been known from the earliest times. Plutarch, in his Slot posia con (Table-talk), quotes a passage from the geographer and philosopher Agathar chides of Cnidus, who lived iu the second before our era, which seems clearly to refer to this worm; and it has been argued with great plausibility, that the "fiery serpents" which attacked the Israelites in the desert were in reality Guinea or Medina worms. This view of the "fiery serpents" was propounded by Bartholin in his com mentary, and Kfiehenmeister, one of our highest authorities on parasitic animals, adduces the following arguments in its support. The Hebrew words which in our version are translated " fiery serpents" are nechaschim seraphim, die former word is correctly translated "serpents;" while seraphim. derived from the word wraph, can signify nothing more than is qui comburit ; and it is clear that a species of animal is referred to which is distinguished by the inflammability of its bite, or generally by the inflammation which its presence causes. " That in ancient times the Filaria [or Guinca worm] was reckoned amongst the serpents on account of its snake-like form, is proved at once by the Greek name dralcontion (Lat. dracunculus). a species of snake which had something fabulous and inexplicable about it. The inflammatory pain and swelling which occurred with the breaking out of the worm are certainly very well expressed by seraphim ; while the mortality amongst the Israelites is easily explained by their ignor ance of the treatment, and the dangerous symptoms occurring in consequence of the breaking of the worm, which. according to sonic authors, may be immediately fatal. Only in the last portion of the way through the desert. of Zin towards Mount !for, but especially on the way from Hor towards Oboth, for which journey they required several months, did the Israelites come into the true district of the Medina-worm namely, the central and eastern portion of Arabia Petrwa. This entire march they would undoubtedly have passed over within the period of incubation of this worm (two months to one year). Here the Filawe (or Guinca-worms) first broke up, with violent
inflammatory pains. Thus, then, the Israelites contracted these worms, which are still indigenous in Arabia Petnett; and this worm-province may consequently be of impor tance and interest to geographers in the determination of the course of travels in the fortieth year of the Israelites wanderings." (On Parasites, vol. i. pp. 392-393.) Our knowledge of the natural history of this worm is still very deficient, and we are at present only acquainted with the female. The body of this animal is slender, cylin drical, and somewhat compressed, and is of the thickness of pack-thread, except at the posterior extremity, where it is somewhat attenuated. It is opaque, of a milk-white color; on each side there is a longitudinal line; and when examined by the microscope, it is seen to be marked with numerous tranverse striae. The anterior extremity is obtuse, and the mouth circular, and beset with four acute spines (but the number, nature, arrangement, and even existence of these spines are points on which helmintho logists differ). The length of the worm varies from less than half a foot to three yards. On examining an adult specimen, extracted by 3Ialgaigne in Paris in 1854, Robin found no trace of intestine, or of any organ except a very thin sheath (a uterus or oviduct), which was filled with young animals rolled up in coils, with the tail occasionally projecting outwards. In these young animals, we can trace the course of the intestinal canal, which apparently becomes subsequently obliterated by the excessive develop ment of the generative organs and the eggs.
This worm is indigenous only in certain hot countries, and its geographical distribu tion is regulated by laws into which we have no insight. Klichenmeister mentions the following places as especially notorious for its occurrence: Senegal. Gaboon, the banks of the Ganges, Bombay, the peninsula of India, Persia, Arabia Petram, the s. coast of the Red Sea. the region round the Caspian sea, Upper Egypt, Abyssinia, certain dis tricts of Nubia, and Guinea. It has been introduced into certain parts of America by negro slaves.