Countdown to Zero: Guinea Worm Disease

On Exhibit posts

Extracting a Guinea worm is a slow and painful process. Some historians believe the medical symbol known
as the Staff of Asclepius—a snake coiled around
a stick—was inspired by the age-old method of Guinea worm extraction. © The Carter Center/L. Gubb

Extracting a Guinea worm is a slow and painful process. Some historians believe the medical symbol known
as the Staff of Asclepius—a snake coiled around
a stick—was inspired by the age-old method of Guinea worm extraction.

© The Carter Center/L. Gubb


Disease agent: The parasitic worm Dracunculus medinensis

The threat: The number of cases has decreased by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, to 148 cases in 2013.

How infection spreads: Through drinking water, which contains microscopic crustacean hosts that carry worm larvae.

Defeating the disease: A concerted effort spearheaded by The Carter Center—educating and engaging communities in solutions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease, plus making available water-filtering tools—has brought the disease within sight of eradication.

A small piece of steel mesh inside a plastic drinking tube offers a low-tech way to filter water on the go, preventing the small crustaceans that carry Guinea worm larvae from being consumed. The Carter Center has collaborated with national governments, local volunteers, and other organizations to distribute more than 23 million of these free “pipe filters.” © The Carter Center/L. Gubb

A small piece of steel mesh inside a plastic drinking tube offers a low-tech way to filter water on the go, preventing the small crustaceans that carry Guinea worm larvae from being consumed. The Carter Center has collaborated with national governments, local volunteers, and other organizations to distribute more than 23 million of these free “pipe filters.”

© The Carter Center/L. Gubb


Eradication potential: Poised for eradication.

What does it take to wipe out a disease? Find out in the new exhibition Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease,  which opens on Tuesday, January 13.

The full story appears in the Winter issue of Rotunda, the Member magazine.