The Crazy Connection Between Flies and Obesity


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Perhaps some of the biggest health concerns for individuals who are morbidly obese include  an increased risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, complications from diabetes and cancer.

And these, of course, are all very valid concerns.

The hit television show “My 600-lb Life,” documents the journeys of extremely overweight Americans and their quest for weight loss surgery. The individuals profiled are dangerously overweight and could die at any moment. In fact, one 842-pound New Jersey resident who was featured on that show suffered a heart attack during the filming of the show and died today.  

Many of the show’s participants are immobile, bedridden and completely unable to carry out routine personal hygiene activities, like taking a proper shower. Some have to depend on family members to sponge bathe them and be diligent about thoroughly cleaning the folds of their skin.

This inability to properly care for their personal hygiene may cause additional, serious health problems on top of all the metabolic issues associated with obesity.

“My 600-lb Life” participant Lisa Fleming, 49, desperately needed weight loss surgery because she weighed an unbelievable 704 pounds and was bedridden. She struggled with her weight for most of her life and was already overweight when she had her first child at 15.

Fleming said she knew she needed to make some serious changes when she found maggots, which are fly larvae, growing in the folds of her skin. When she made this horrific discovery, she said that she had been feeling sick and her leg was constantly bothering her. Her daughter checked her leg and found the maggots.

So how could this have happened?

It is possible that due to her obesity Fleming developed a form of a condition called myiasis, an infection of  fly larvae in human tissue. These larvae can feed off of living or dead tissue in humans.

According to a doctor in this report, she likely developed a form of wound myiasis, “an infection that happens when a fly deposits its egg on a wound or open sore where it will be able to feed on human flesh and give birth to maggots.”

“In the context of an open wound, flies would land on these open sores or ulcerations in the skin and that's where they would want to lay their eggs," said the doctor.

"If there are unclean surfaces inorganic material, the fly can put it's larvae there and they will thrive because there are lots of nutrients."

Individuals who are extremely overweight are highly prone to open wounds, cuts and sores as a result of a variety of issues including:

The report said that Fleming likely had intertrigo which led to myiasis.

“Fleming's intertrigo, the inflammation of skinfolds caused by skin-on-skin friction, is a common condition among severely obese individuals that can lead to infections and even myiasis,” the report says.

This type of myiasis is not actually that common, even in extremely obese people. Fleming’s case is actually pretty rare, but the point is that being so dangerously overweight can lead to terrible skin infections that could be life-threatening if left untreated.

Basic myiasis usually occurs in tropical and subtropical areas. Flies can transmit their larvae to people through insect bites and burrowing into the skin.

“Myiasis is not common in the United States. Most people in the United States with myiasis got it when they traveled to tropical areas in Africa and South America. People with untreated and open wounds are more likely to get myiasis,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In tropical areas, where the infection is most likely to occur, some flies lay their eggs on drying clothes that are hung outside.”

Myiasis is not spread from person to person.

From Fleming’s story we see that obesity is an extremely dangerous disease that can cause a myriad of health problems.

Even though her story was unique, obesity still affects hundreds of millions of Americans. And I think we can see from the show “My 600-lb Life,” obesity is not only a physical issue but also an addiction and mental health issue. Many of the participants of this show suffered significant trauma that may have contributed to their addiction to food.

So how can you be proactive?

If you are uncontrollably gaining weight or know someone who seems to have a problem overeating, seek appropriate mental or other necessary help to lose weight. Learn more about how to manage weight issues and obesity here.

Finally, if you are traveling to regions where myiasis is more common, take precautions such as using window screens and mosquito nets, applying insect repellent and not 'line drying' your clothes outside.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.   


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