A foot infected with Tungiasis, an infestation of the skin by a burrowing cigoe or jigger flea
A foot infected with tungiasis, an infestation of the skin caused a cigoe flea (or jigger) burrowing under the victim's skin. Wikicommons: R.Schuster

A tiny parasite burrowed into the sole of Matthew O'Donnell's foot while he was working in Africa, before bursting and shedding its eggs in his bedroom after he arrived back in the UK.

O'Donnell was working as a volunteer in Tanzania when the chigoe flea managed to penetrate his foot and feed off his blood.

The 22-year-old geography graduate had no idea he was carrying a parasite until he flew back home and noticed a lump on his right foot.

Without warning his skin suddenly burst open and the black bug tumbled out on to his bedclothes along with more than 100 tiny eggs.

He told the Western Morning News: "I looked down to see a lump, I thought 'What on Earth is that?' A tiny black bug dropped out, followed by 100 little white eggs tumbling after it.

The eggs hatching from a cigoe flea
The eggs hatching from a cigoe flea Stanford University

"I had an idea of what it was because while I was out there one of my friends also got it in one of her toenails.

"This type of tic lives in the sand over there, so if you're walking around in flip-flops it burrows into your skin.

"It seems this insect used me as a free ticket back from Tanzania only to pop out of my foot a month later."

He added: "I wasn't expecting all the eggs to come out of my foot. I wrapped it all in toilet paper and flushed it down pretty quickly."

The parasitic chigoe flea lives in warm, dry soil and sand, and is found commonly in beaches, farms, and wooded areas. Both the male and female fleas feed on warm-blooded hosts, but only the impregnated female flea anchors herself and burrows into the host's skin.

In heavy infestation, ulceration and fibrosis can occur. Left untreated, secondary infection such as bacteremia, tetanus and gas gangrene can occur.

Watch the video on what to do if a pregnant cigoe flea gets under your skin