Management & Treatment

Management of Guinea Worm Disease

When the Guinea worm is ready to come out of the body, it creates a painful burning blister on the skin. The blister eventually ruptures, exposing the worm. Management of Guinea worm disease (GWD) involves removing the whole worm and caring for the wound in general. There is no specific drug to treat or prevent GWD. There is also no vaccine to prevent GWD.

Optimal management of GWD involves the following steps[1]:

  1. First, the infected person is not allowed to enter drinking water sources.
  2. Next, the wound is cleaned. The affected body part may be immersed or soaked in water (far away from any water source to prevent contamination) to encourage the worm to contract and release larvae. Emptying the worm of larvae may make removing the worm easier.
  3. The worm is then wrapped around a rolled piece of gauze or a stick to maintain some tension on the worm and encourage more of the worm to emerge. This also prevents the worm from slipping back inside.
  4. Then, gentle traction is applied to the worm to slowly pull it out. Pulling stops when resistance is met to avoid breaking the worm. Because the worm can be as long as one meter in length, full extraction can take several days to weeks.
  5. Afterwards, topical antibiotics are applied to the wound to prevent secondary bacterial infections.
  6. The affected body part is then bandaged with fresh gauze to protect the site. Medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are given to help ease the pain of this process and reduce inflammation.
  7. These steps are repeated every day until the whole worm is successfully pulled out.


1. Ruiz-Tiben, E. and D.R. Hopkins, Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease) eradication. Adv Parasitol, 2006. 61: p. 275-309. icon

Child immersing foot in water

Child immersing foot in water to ease pain and hasten worm emergence. Photo credit: Louise Gubb, 2007, The Carter Center.

Guinea worm extraction from leg

Guinea worm extraction from leg. Photo credit: 2001 The Carter Center.

Guinea worm extraction.

Guinea worm extraction. Photo credit: Emily Staub, 2001, The Carter Center.

Managing Guinea worm.

Managing Guinea worm. Photo credit: WHO Collaborating Center at the CDC archives.

Page last reviewed: February 4, 2022