Researcher allows flea to live in her foot for 2 months to study its habits

An annoyance to us, a flea infestation could be life-threatening to our pets

Fleas can be nasty pests when they decide to attack, therefore, most of the time our focus is on flea prevention. This wasn't the case for one German Ph.D. student, though. According to Science Magazine, Marlene Thielecke, who studies at Charité University Medicine in Berlin, allowed a flea to remain embedded in her foot so she could study its behavior. 

Thielecke was studying tungiasis infection, a skin infection caused by a type of flea called the tunga penetrans (also known as a sand flea), when she discovered she was hosting a flea of her own. For people living in infested regions (the tunga penetrans is common in the Caribbean, South America and sub-Saharan Africa), the flea is a serious health concern. For Thielecke, it was a blessing. She was able to study her subject up close and personal – very personal.

In order to prevent an infestation, Thielecke began wearing socks and closed shoes to preempt another flea from joining the old one and mating, noted Science Magazine. It was two months before she had the flea removed. The spot was getting itchy, painful and prevented her from walking normally. "I started to get uneasy," she said.

The danger of a flea infestation
What was a temporary welcome surprise to this researcher is a potentially harmful surprise to our pets and our homes. A flea infestation can cause many health problems in our pets, including skin infections from constant furious itching and anemia in smaller animals as a result of blood loss. What may be an annoyance to us can be deadly to our pets.

That's why it's important to treat your pets before a flea infestation gets out of control. Thielecke was fortunate enough to only be harboring one flea, but pets won't be that lucky. Products like the Hartz® UltraGuard Plus® Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo with Aloe can kill fleas and ticks for up to two weeks. It also kills flea eggs to protect against reinfestation. Steps like thoroughly cleaning your carpeting and washing or discarding your pets' bedding can also reduce the chances of reinfestation. 

This content is provided by the flea treatment experts at Hartz. We offer flea sprays, shampoos and drops to keep your pets safe inside and outside your home.