Loa Loa Worm: Life Cycle, Scientific Name & Facts

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In this lesson we discuss the Loa Loa worm. It is one of many roundworm parasites that are transferred by fly bites. Here's some details about its life cycle, scientific name, and facts.

Fair Warning

Loa Loa is also known as the African Eye Worm. You may have heard about this before; it lives in your eyeballs. Not squeamish yet? Good! Read on to find out about its life cycle and some interesting facts.

The Loa Loa Worm

The Loa loa worm is a nematode (roundworm) parasite. Its preferred host is the human being. When you are infected with this parasite, the symptoms are known as Loaiasis. This disease is also known as Loaina, Filaria Loa, Calabar swellings, or Microfilaria diural. ''Loa'' was a native term used for such an infection.


  • Phylum: Nematoda
  • Class: Chromadorea
  • Order: Spirurida
  • Super Family Filariodea
  • Family Onchocercidae
  • Genus: Loa
  • Species: loa


The Loa Loa worm was discovered when a man named Dr. Mongin tried, and failed, to remove it from a woman's eye. This happened in 1770 in Santo Domingo - a hot wet climate which is what the worm prefers. The worm is passed through the bite of a deer or mango fly. Fortunately, they are not contagious, so a human cannot pass it to another human.

One of the easiest ways to diagnose a Loa loa worm infection is by the characteristic swelling that occurs in the hands, legs and face of the infected person. This is called Calabar swelling. Another way to diagnose this infections worm is to examine the eyes, occasionally, the worm may wiggle past the eyeball and can be seen. While they are small (between 30 and 70 millimeters long), they can be spotted with the naked eye.

Life Cycle

The deerfly or mango fly vectors (an insect that transmits a pathogen) first get infected with filaria (parasitic roundworm) when they bite a host who is already infected. The vector gets infected in the blood by microfilaria (filarial larva). The microfilaria go through a few stages where they lose a layer of covering called a sheath.

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