Chigoe flea

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Not to be confused with Chigger.
Chigoe flea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Siphonaptera
Family: Hectopsyllidae
Genus: Tunga
Species: T. penetrans
Binomial name
Tunga penetrans
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Tunga penetrans
Jigger infested foot

The chigoe flea or jigger (Tunga penetrans) is a parasitic arthropod found in most tropical and sub-tropical climates, not to be confused with the larval form of Trombiculidae (called chiggers) found in more temperate climates. It is native to Central and South America, and has been inadvertently introduced by humans to sub-Saharan Africa.[1] At 1 mm long, the chigoe flea is the smallest known flea.[1] Breeding female chigoes burrow into exposed skin on the feet of mammals and remain there for two weeks while developing eggs, during which time they swell dramatically, sometimes causing intense irritation (condition called tungiasis). After this point, the skin lesion looks like a 5- to 10-mm blister with a central black dot, which are the flea's exposed hind legs, respiratory spiracles and reproductive organs.[2]

If the flea is left within the skin, dangerous complications can occur including secondary infections, loss of nails, and toe deformation. These are relatively rare, but heavy infestations combined with unsanitary conditions greatly increases the likelihood of complications.[1]

The parasitic flea lives in soil and sand, and feeds intermittently on warm-blooded hosts, such as humans and cattle. Males leave the host after a blood meal like other fleas, but the female flea burrows head-first into the host's skin, leaving the caudal tip of its abdomen visible through an orifice in a skin lesion. This orifice allows the chigoe flea to defecate while feeding on blood vessels from which it gets its oxygen as well. It lives in the cutaneous and subcutaneous dermal layer. Over the next two weeks, its abdomen swells with up to several hundred to a thousand eggs, which it releases through the caudal orifice to fall to the ground when ready to hatch. The flea then dies and is often the cause of infection as the body rots under thick scales its body chemistry created to protect it. The eggs mature into adult fleas within three to four weeks and the process begins anew.

Since the fleas spend most of their time on the ground, tungiasis lesions are usually on the feet; however, like most fleas they are capable of jumping up 20 cm, and lesions may occur on any part of the body, favoring regions of soft skin such as between the toes.[1] During the first day or two of infection, the host may feel an itching or irritation which then passes as the area around the flea calluses and becomes insensitive. As the flea's abdomen swells with eggs later in the cycle, the pressure from the swelling may press neighbouring nerves or blood vessels. Depending on the exact site, this can cause sensations ranging from mild irritation to serious discomfort.

In addition to the chigoe flea, The genus Tunga includes a dozen species, which infect various mammals.[3][4]


  • Sarcopsylla penetrans
  • Pulex penetrans
  • and many others[3]

The chigoe flea, "jigger," is often confused with the chigger, (Trombiculidae) or harvest mite due to the similarity of their names.

In Lingala-speaking areas liyanzi (singular) or mayanzi (plural)
In Kiswahili funza
In Brazil bicho-de-pé (foot bug)
In Spanish pique (due to the itching and burning sensation it produces)
in Central America, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador nigua
In Luganda nvunza
In Guarani
In Kinyarwanda and Kirundi ivunja or imvunja (singular) or amavunja (plural)
In Madagascar Parasy

See also[edit]

Organizations Helping Deal With Jiggers[edit]

  • Sole Hope exists to offer HOPE, healthier lives and freedom from foot related diseases through education, jobs and medical relief.
  • Ahadi Kenya Trust To create a better life for people, a promise to bridge the poverty gap by empowering poor communities.
  • Kingdom Driven Ministries Missionaries operating a clinic outside Kitale, Kenya
  • [1] The Rise Up Society is a government recognized charity that has helped over 100,000 people of the 1.4 million afflicted. Jim Nduruchi The Rise Up Society P.O. Box 1499 Bungoma, KENYA 50200 (+254) 723 323 186
  • Whisper, a UK registered charity, runs a jigger programme[5] in Eastern Uganda.


  1. ^ a b c d Cestari TF, Pessato S, Ramos-e-Silva M Tungiasis and myiasis. Clin Dermatol. 2007 Mar-Apr;25(2):158-64.
  2. ^ Muehlstaedt M Periungual Tungiasis (2008) Images in clinical medicine. N Engl J Med 359(24):e30.
  3. ^ a b Beaucournu, J.-C.; Degeilh, B.; Mergey, T.; Muñoz-Leal, S.; González-Acuña, D. (2012). "Le genre Tunga Jarocki, 1838 (Siphonaptera: Tungidae). I – Taxonomie, phylogénie, écologie, rôle pathogène". Parasite 19 (4): 297–308. doi:10.1051/parasite/2012194297. ISSN 1252-607X.  open access publication - free to read
  4. ^ Linardi, Pedro Marcos; Beaucournu, Jean-Claude; de Avelar, Daniel Moreira; Belaz, Sorya (2014). "Notes on the genus Tunga (Siphonaptera: Tungidae) II – neosomes, morphology, classification, and other taxonomic notes". Parasite 21: 68. doi:10.1051/parasite/2014067. ISSN 1776-1042. PMID 25514594.  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ Kara, Shamilla (25 Apr 2013). "Whisper resuscitates hope for children in jigger-infested communities". New Vision. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 

Recognized by the World Health Organization in March of 2015 although this has been a pandemic for over 200 years. *[2]