10 Most Horrific Human Parasites

Most disgusting human parasites

For the majority of us reading this a brush with a parasite will be a fairly unremarkable episode. Hey, we’ve all had head lice, fleas and the odd case of worms – oh, maybe that’s just me. The point is these are generally just an irritation and not much more.

The collection of human parasites I’ve compiled below might start off fairly tame but soon accelerates into the realm of pure horror; there are flies that can drill into your brain, worms that can live in your eyeball and bugs that will put you to sleep forever. In theory a parasite has evolved in such a manner as to not kill its host, this would not be good for future generations. However, it seems that some of these miniscule monsters have not read the manual.

This list is possibly enough to convince many of you that there isn’t a God; or maybe these creatures are the result of intelligent design, but that designer is one sick puppy…

Some of you may be a little disappointed that I haven’t used the absolutely most gruesome pictures I could find. I’ll leave that to you now you are armed with a few names.

10. Bedbug

The bedbug is on the decidedly cuddly end of our most disgusting human parasites. These little insects are about the size of an apple seed and feed exclusively on blood, preferably human. You see that big straw like thing in the photo above, that’s for plugging into you and sucking your blood.

Whist a few people don’t seem too affected by bedbug bites for many it is somewhat like having masses of mosquito bites, and for others the bug’s saliva can trigger anaphylactic shock.

The bedbug is the most likely of this list of parasites that you will encounter. It was almost eradicated from the developed world back in the 1940s but unfortunately has made a comeback. One of the problems with these critters is how hard they are to get rid of. In the daytime they can hide in the tiniest of cracks, they can also stay hidden for months on end without feeding. You think you’ve got rid of them and then they suddenly reappear.

Whilst bedbugs may be a huge irritation to people think yourselves lucky you are not a female bedbug. Mating occurs through a process called traumatic insemination in which the male basically stabs the female in the abdomen to deliver his sperm.

Bed bugs get a place on this list partly as they give us a starting point, i.e. a 1 out of 10, and also because I had a nice photo!

9. Scabies mite

Just the word scabies alone sounds pretty unpleasant making it ideal for the skin condition it describes. Also known as the seven-year itch scabies results in intense itching and is contagious. It can occur virtually anywhere on the body, or across the whole body.

But itch as it might, and scratch as you will, it won’t help because scabies is caused by tiny parasitic mites living under the skin. So short of scratching your skin off it will keep on itching, so that’s what some people end up doing. This excessive scratching often results in secondary, bacterial infections which are far more of a health risk than the scabies itself.

Whilst normal scabies is an unpleasant experience, it is easily treated. However, a condition known as crusted or Norwegian scabies can occur in those with weaker immune systems. This hyper-infestation of mites can mean instead of a dozen or so there are actually millions of them crawling around under the skin.

8. Loa Loa

The nematode Loa Loa is our first (but not last) introduction to the worms. Although these little beast may be roughly the same shape as the worms you find in the garden that help the soil, that is pretty much where the similarity ends.

If you could think of a part of the body that you really didn’t want a parasitic worm to take up residence there is a good chance a lot of you would say the face or eye. Well, they don’t call it the “African eye worm” for nothing; infection with the loa loa worm (loaiasis) is often diagnosed by the presence of a worm in the eye. That’s a pretty horrific prospect as the adult worms measure between 3 and 6 cm (1.2–2.4 inches) long.

Apparently it can be quite painful as the worm slowly moves around, just under the surface of the eyeball. Perhaps the only consolation is that when they are clearly visible like this they can be surgically removed – a process which can be seen here.

As well as crawling around the eye the loa loa worm can spend many years crawling around under the skin. In fact these worms can live up to 17 years and will spend much of this time completely undetected – until one appears traipsing across the inner surface of the eye. This means a person may become infected many years before they realise, such as a case I read involving a woman who had visited Nigeria 6 years previously.

7. Paralysis tick

The Australian paralysis tick is a typically unpleasant antipodean arachnid. This is Australia of course so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this little nasty possesses a potentially lethal venom.

Paralysis ticks spend much of their time perched on leaves with their legs outstretched waiting for something or someone to brush past at which point they grab on. As with other ticks when a suitable host is encountered they will burrow head-first into the skin and start feeding on blood until they look fit to burst (see photo).
Like other ticks, the paralysis tick can pass on a number of nasty diseases such as Rickettsial infections or Lyme’s disease. Unlike other ticks this one secretes a neurotoxin that is capable of causing death by paralysis which progresses to the lungs causing respiratory failure.

Up until 1989 there were 20 recorded fatalities from tick paralysis in Australia. Whilst am increased awareness of the risks has eliminated much of the danger posed there is still no antivenom for this tick.

In addition to the toxin the paralysis tick often provokes an allergic reaction; this in itself can be life-threatening to some.

6. Guinea Worm

The picture of someone pulling a metre long worm out of someone’s leg should be enough to explain why this revolting parasite is on our list.

The guinea worm infects its host (humans or dogs) when they drink water that is contaminated with water fleas containing the worms larvae. Whilst the flea is digested by stomach acids, the larva is set free and begins its journey by penetrating the host’s stomach or intestine wall. It will live here in the body cavity for around 3 months where it mates with other guinea worms.

After around a year the female guinea worms will have grown to over 50cm (18ins) in length and are ready for the last stage of their journey. From the abdomen the worm makes its way down through the pelvis and along the bones of the leg towards the foot. This is usually the first sign of guinea worm infection (or dracunculiasis) and can give rise to an intensely painful burning sensation along the chosen path.

At some point they will reach the skin where the worm emerges from a blister to release hundreds of thousands of larvae when it encounters water. This stage is equally painful and associated with complications including severe allergic reaction.
Although it is very unusual for dracunculiasis to cause death it can be debilitating. There is also a risk of secondary infections if the worm dies en route.

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The good news is that this parasite’s days appear to be numbered. Back in 1986 there were an estimated 3.5 million cases throughout Africa. Last year only 22 were recorded.

5. Chigoe flea

The chigoe, chigger or jigger flea is the smallest flea in the world and was originally only found in the tropical climates of South and Central America. Unfortunately, it has been accidentally spread to sub-Saharan Africa by human travel. Basically these tiny bundles of itchy hate will thrive anywhere warm where there is poverty and lack of hygiene. In areas where chigoe fleas are endemic the infection rate can be up to half the population.

As with many of the creatures on this list it is the female that is responsible for the parasites unsavoury reputation. Like other fleas, the male will hop on, suck the host’s blood and then hop off; the female, on the other hand likes to stick around. She will burrow head first into the skin leaving only a small part of the rear end protruding. This is for breathing, excretion and mating.

Infections are most common in the feet and the flea will go for areas of soft skin, such as between the toes. This is because the jigger flea lives just under the soil surface, waiting for an unfortunate mammal host to come along, at which point it will hop on.

Once established the flee will begin feeding on the host’s blood and grow from around 1mm to the size of a small pea, all under the skin. The first sign of chigoe infection has been described as a “pleasant” itching, however, this does not last long, becoming more intense. Other signs include bumps on the skin with tiny coils of flea poo protruding. After a while the itching may be accompanied by pain, sometimes severe, as the flea expands within its burrow.

Unpleasant as the actual flea’s presence may be, it is the host of accompanying complications and secondary infections that cause the biggest problems. Tetanus and gangrene are not uncommon, along with around 150 other pathogens carried by the fleas. Most of these infections occur when the flea has died and begins to rot away under the host’s skin.

4. Filariasis

For easily understandable reasons the disease caused by filarial worms is often mistakenly referred to as “elephantitis“, the actual name of the condition is elephantiasis. It is odd to think the gross deformities seen in this condition are actually caused by tiny roundworms which are spread via mosquito bites. This explains why it took until the late 1800s for the connection to be made by the medical world.

A simple explanation of the cause of the massive swelling is the damage and blocking of the lymphatic vessels by the filarial worms which causes a build up of lymph fluid in the tissue. This generally affects the lower regions of the body and can be particularly cruel for men as the swelling often causes the testicles to become massive. A quick online search will reveal photos of unfortunate victims with balls the size of space-hoppers.

It is estimated that worldwide more than 120 million people are infected with filarial worms. For the majority there are little or no signs of the infection; for the rest there is a lifetime of social stigma and incapacity. In some communities though, where lymphatic filariasis is endemic elephantiasis can affect up to 50% of the population.

The outlook for those suffering from elephantiasis is mixed. Surgery can be successful in some cases, but not many. The worms also live a long time – up to 14 years, and during this time they will reproduce, so this condition is often for life.

3. Ascaris

To some extent the picture above pretty much sums up the horrors inflicted by the roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides. This writhing ball of worms (and section of bowel) was removed from the intestine of a 3 year old South African child. In a similar case a 2 year old child, who died, was found to have had nearly 800 worms weighing 0.5Kg (1lb) inside her.

Although the above are fairly extreme cases ascaris infection (ascariasis) is incredibly common. In fact around a fifth of the global population have some degree of ascaris infection. Most show no symptoms, whilst a small percentage present with abdominal pain and sometimes weight loss.

Ascaris worms can grow to a length of 35 cm (1ft) and live by feeding off the undigested food within our gut so it is little wonder that having a few of these can leave you feeling hungry.

Along with bowel obstruction, other serious complications can occur. Some worms may find their way into the pancreas or gallbladder – which I believe is highly painful. These conditions usually require surgery, which can be very unpleasant given ascaris worms have an aversion to certain general anesthetics and may try to exit the body via the mouth.

Another potentially serious complication is caused by the migrating larvae. As part of their life cycle the microscopic larvae are absorbed from the gut into the blood system and find their way into the lungs. Here they can cause damage before being coughed up, swallowed and returned to the gut. This was the case in a bizarre attempted murder trial in Canada. PhD parasitologist Eric Krantz was accused of trying to kill his housemates by serving food infected with ascaris eggs he had procured from the university labs. The housemates ended up in hospital for 2 weeks with parasitic pneumonia.
In the ensuing trial Krantz was acquitted on the grounds of reasonable doubt.

2. Tapeworm

Back to the worms with the biggest of them all – the mighty tapeworm. This family of flatworms are the largest human parasite and survive by attaching themselves to the lining of the intestines where they feast on blood. Whilst admittedly this doesn’t sound like much fun for them, it isn’t particularly great for the host either; symptoms include a range of abdominal conditions and in severe cases weight loss and anaemia.

It was probably quite a severe case of the tapeworms that Sally Mae Wallace of Great Grits, Mississippi had back in 1991. Whilst most of us would probably want to keep such things private Sally appears proud of the fact a record breaking 11 metre (37 ft) worm was removed by doctors, via her mouth. She is quoted as chirping “after about 20 feet of that thing had come out of my mouth, I just knew I had the record. I was really filled with joy”. And who wouldn’t be?!

If you think that all sounds bad then pity the poor whales. Their version of the tapeworm (Polygonoporus giganticus) can grow to over 30 metres (100 ft) in length.

Although this is all quite disgusting, it isn’t really life threatening. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case – the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) can cause serious problems and even death. This can occur when one of the tapeworm’s segments ruptures releasing thousands of eggs. These hatch into tiny larvae which migrate to various body tissues causing what is known as cysticercosis. Here they remain dormant for weeks, months or even years after which they begin to grow, up to nearly 2cm across. This can affect the muscles, skin and even the eyes and brain. You can probably imagine the problem this causes with blindness, seizures and ultimately death in some cases.

1. Screw-worm fly / myiasis in general

The New World screwworm may not be the most prolific of the parasites on this list, but it makes up for this in sheer horror. Screwworms are a well known livestock pest but they are equally at home on any warm-blooded animal… or human. In fact the species name (hominivorax) roughly translates as “man-eater” and that is kind of what they do.

The life cycle of the screwworm begins with an adult female fly looking for an open wound to lay her eggs in. When a suitable host is found in excess of 100 eggs may be laid in and around the wound and these hatch into tiny larvae within 24 hours. In order to grow these little grubs need food, and this is where things become the stuff of nightmares. Using its cutting jaws and those nasty looking fangs, the screwworm begins burrowing into the host’s flesh, eating as it goes.

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These maggots can drill all the way down to the bone, bite into nerves or even get into the bloodstream; the possibilities are endlessly horrific. One particularly unpleasant trait of the screwworm is its habit of burrowing deeper if it is disturbed. And all this isn’t just grotesque, it’s life-threatening – including resulting secondary infections the mortality rate from screwworm infestation is 8%.

Today the screwworm is only found in areas of Central and South America (it was successfully eradicated in the U.S. in the 1950s). It was in Peru that a British tourist had a very unpleasant experience with these little flesh-eating monsters. Rochelle Harris had just returned from her holiday when she began noticing a scratching noise that seemed to be coming from inside her head. Other symptoms such as headaches, shooting pains in her face and a discharge from her ear followed.

Initially dismissed as an ear infection it was only when Rochelle visited a specialist that the grim discovery was made. Whilst examining her ear the doctor suddenly went quiet. Following an emergency brain scan it was discovered that the maggots had burrowed over a centimetre into Rochelle’s head from a hole in her ear canal. A visual examination revealed what doctors described as “‘writhing mass of maggots”. Luckily for Ms Harris the parasites were removed before they had caused any serious damage.


Not only harmful to animals! Are fleas dangerous for humans? What diseases do they suffer?

For some reason, it has always been thought that fleas threaten only animals, because they are their masters.

For man, the trouble was lice. In fact, everything is not so. Fleas are no less dangerous to humans.

Where there are pets, there are fleas. Another thing is how much their owners are aware of this and are actively fighting this evil.

Where are the parasites in the house?

Your favorite pets bring them. — cats and dogs. In the poultry yard in a private house, too, is restless — a chicken flea is no less dangerous than a dog or cat.

Cats often cling to themselves and bring a rat flea into the house, the one that at one time became the culprit of a terrible mora in medieval Europe from bubonic plague. True, their bloodsucking preferences have. A cat flea does not linger on a dog and vice versa. Chicken — also prefers an authentic owner.

And so, the pets living in the apartment or in the house, drag on themselves these parasites which quickly breed and infect not only animals. Their eggs and larvae fall into the cracks, on carpets and upholstered furniture, and especially a lot of them on dog or cat litter.

In urban homes, they can fall into apartments from the basement, the entrance or from neighbors who keep animals.

Since fleas are ready to feed on any blood, including human blood, they often attack humans. Especially goes to young children.

Highly it is important to start fighting parasites at the very beginningwhen it does not take a lot of money and the health problems of the household begin.

Is a flea dangerous to humans?

To begin, we define what kind of «beast.» Flea refers to ectoparasites, that is, parasites living on the surface of their host’s body. They may be any animal, bird, as well as man. It is a blood-sucking insect that, when it reaches food, pierces the skin. With saliva in the puncture site and an infection is introduced, the carrier of which is a flea.


Infections, which are carried by a flea, are very serious. These are diseases such as:

  • Bubonic plague;
  • hepatitis;
  • encephalitis;
  • anthrax;
  • typhus.

The most common infection with endoparasites:

  • worms;
  • nematodes;
  • tapeworms;
  • salmonellosis;
  • fungal infections.

Attention! No less dangerous is listeriosis, which affects the human nervous and lymphatic systems.

It cannot be said that every insect is infected with these diseases, but the risk always remains. But each of them with its bite causes unpleasant, sometimes painful and far-reaching consequences.

Especially dangerous are rat fleas that a cat can bring on itself. Rats are very illegible in food, they can feed on waste, the remains of sick animals, etc.

Imagine what infections a rat flea can carry! It may be pseudotuberculosis, tularemia, myxomatosis, melioidosis and other no less dangerous diseases.

The effects of flea bites

Flea bites, especially multiple ones, can cause severe skin reactions, such as reddening of the skin, swelling of bite spots, severe itching. In some cases, developing flea dermatitis, which is treated very hard.

Bites can also cause a more violent reaction of the body in the form of swelling of the lymph nodes, an allergic reaction with increasing temperature.

With frequent encounters with fleas, with constant discomfort while waiting for their bites, people may experience phobias, neuralgia, and even nervous disorders.

How to fight?

The methods of struggle are simple — keep clean and hygiene rules. If the culprits of insects are your favorite animals, take action immediately. Cats and dogs also suffer from flea bites and also risk falling ill. Immediately free them from parasites until they have settled your home.

Keeping the house clean is also a way to fight fleas. Regularly clean the carpets, rugs and bedding of animals, do not let dust accumulate in the house.

If you are unable to cope with fleas on your own, use chemical control agents or contact specialized services.

In conclusion, we offer you a video about how to get rid of fleas in an apartment:


Flea Bites on Humans – Pictures, Treatment and Prevention

Welcome to FLEABITES.NET where you’ll learn everything you need to know about fleas. If you need help figuring out if you were bitten or not and how to treat your bites, you can start by reading about flea bites on humans. You can also see what the bites may look like in the flea bite pictures section.

During your visit, you’ll learn how to effectively accomplish this:

  1. Identify if you have been bitten by fleas
  2. Treat flea bites on humans, dogs and cats
  3. Get rid of fleas in and outside your home
  4. Prevent flea infestations in the future

Now you can also learn how to get rid of fleas while supporting a great cause (World Wildlife Fund).

Flea bites on humans

Let me start by saying that we don’t see fleas on humans as often as on cats or dogs. Flea bites on humans usually come from dog fleas, cat fleas or human fleas. The bites are often seen in large groups or in clusters. Some people are very sensitive to these bites, and they risk getting a kind of hives, that looks like a large number of red bumps or bubbles on the affected area.

Fleas from cats and dogs often bite below the knee, usually on the ankles. You can also get flea bites on the forearms, if you have stroked or held your pet. In fact it is only the human flea that comes in groups of two to three, or even more at a time. Bites from dog or cat fleas usually show as areas of red dots.

There are a few people, that develop severe allergic reactions to flea bites and can get irritated by a single bite. Although it happens rarely, you can also get nasty diseases from the bacteria and viruses, that fleas transmit.

Not sure if you have flea bites? Take this test and find out now.

Flea bites on your pets

No matter if you have a dog, cat, rabbit or another animal, it is most likely that your pet gets cat fleas. Flea species prefers specific hosts, although if there is someone nearby, they can easily live on other animals or humans. Often it is not even sure you notice if your dog or cat gets flea bites. But if fleas are allowed to spread, they may end up invading your home.

Some pets, like dogs, can be sensitive to certain substances in flea saliva. More than humans are. They may develop allergic reactions after just one bite.

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When fleas bite and why they do it

Evolution has shown that fleas have evolved to store 15 times more blood than their own weight. They have a lot of short spikes on their legs, allowing them to stick very firmly to their host. Once they have penetrated the animals or humans skin, they inject the saliva. The saliva is known to have more than 15 different substances, that may cause severe allergic reactions. Especially dogs are at risk of developing flea allergy.

I should also mention that fleas bite some people more than others. Like many other biting insects, fleas find their hosts based on the chemical cues we release, also known as volatile organic compound (VOC). Your VOC profile is a product of your skin flora and your odor consists of around 400 compounds, making it unique. So when fleas choose to bite you and not your friends, family members or colleagues, it’s because the fleas odorant receptors detect the VOCs that are unique to you.

Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man, but they don’t bite everybody – Stanislaw Lec

All fleas are parasites that need to suck the blood of animals or humans to live. The adult female fleas also need blood to be able to reproduce. In fact, they need food two to three times every day. They only need to mate once in a lifetime though, to be able to reproduce. So fleas don’t just bite because they can, they bite because they need the blood to survive.

What are the symptoms?

Flea bite symptoms can vary from person to person, but these are common signs:

  • Raised spots on the skin that are red and itchy
  • The bites are typically seen on lower body parts like feet and legs
  • Some people are immune to the bites and may not show any symptoms
  • Scratching the bites can cause blisters, welts and serious skin infections

You should have your doctor look at it if you get blisters, pus filled boils and fever.

Are fleas dangerous to humans or pets?

Insect bites are annoying and potential threats to both humans and animals. Fortunately, flea bites on humans and pets are not as dangerous as many other insect bites. Although you don’t need to contact your doctor as soon as it starts itching all over the body, you must still be aware of allergic reactions and rashes.

Fleas can be carriers of many different types of bacteria and viral diseases, and they are known to transmit tapeworms. Even if the fleas are disease-free, they can still drive both animals and humans mad when they come in big groups, and they are not easy to get rid of. Stick around and I’ll show you how to get rid of them.

What do flea bites look like?

If they are not causing an allergic reaction, the bites look just like red small dots, which you might not even notice. But when the bites start to itch, the person or pet may scratch a hole in the affected area, which can cause skin infections. If you get an allergic reaction to the bite, you usually have large areas of redness, severe itching and small pimples that require treatment.

Visit the flea bite pictures section to see what the bites look like.

Flea bite treatment

If you get bitten and you don’t do anything about it, the bites will eventually get worse because you simply can’t stop scratching them. This can be very uncomfortable and cause a lot of frustration, especially if you have flea allergy. Luckily we know so much about fleas today that we have developed excellent treatments and medicines that can take care of the problem almost instantly.

You can cure yourself at home by following the instructions below. If one way doesn’t work for you, just try another. People react differently to flea bites, so the effect of the specific treatment may also vary from person to person.

How to get rid of flea bites

  1. First of all, stop scratching your bites! I know it’s difficult but if you continue doing so, the bites can get infected with bacteria that will enter your bloodstream and cause havoc on your body. Save yourself from nasty infections by leaving the area alone.
  2. This one makes the first point easier to follow. Stop the itching with some cream or lotion. This will also reduce swelling and clean the area, decreasing the chance of getting those unwanted infections.
  3. If cream or lotion doesn’t do it for you, there’s also antihistamine as tablets or liquid. You should contact your doctor before taking this. I would prefer that you use cream or lotion – it’s cheaper and works in most cases.
  4. Use ice or cold water to soothe the itching. This also prevents or reduces swelling and inflammation.

How to get rid of fleas

The next step towards a life without fleas is to learn how to get rid of them. I have some great tips on how to deal with those pesky little creatures that invade your home and I’ll share them with you here.

Start by reading my step-by-step checklist that explains exactly how to deal with fleas in your home and on your pets by following a few simple but effective steps. Here’s what to do:

  1. Click here to get the checklist
  2. Print it out and follow the steps
  3. Enjoy a safer home without fleas

I recommend using my checklist because it’s easier to take action on and ensure that you’re not forgetting any important steps, but here’s a quick sum up of what you need to do.

Get rid of fleas in your home

If you have fleas in your home, it’s most likely that your pets brought them in from outside.

Follow these steps to get rid of fleas in your home:

  1. Vacuum carpets and rugs thoroughly and wash your pets bedding in hot water. Discard the bedding if you have a serious infestation.
  2. Remove items from the floor (feeding bowls, children’s toys etc.), pull furniture away from the walls and cover exposed surfaces.
  3. Strip the beds of sheets etc. and wash that along with comforters and curtains on as high a temperature as the fabric allows.
  4. Put on protective gear and apply EPA and FDA approved flea treatment products on floors and rugs. Always read the instructions first.
  5. Let the insecticides work for the amount of time described on the label and vacuum your home thoroughly afterwards.
  6. Repeat the process after two weeks.

Treat your pets for fleas

As I mentioned before, your pets are probably bringing in the fleas, so you have to treat them too.

Follow these steps to treat your pets for fleas:

  1. Start by bathing your pets with flea shampoo. This is an excellent way to quickly get rid of fleas on heavily infested pets.
  2. Maintain ongoing flea control by using a flea collar, pills or topical flea drops (I prefer the last one).
  3. Some people also bathe their pets once or twice a month and add a little vinegar as a repellent for extra protection.
  4. Keep your pets on a healthy diet, rich in biotin, omega essential fatty acids and B-vitamins.
  5. Groom your pets regularly using a flea comb. This is great for discovering and removing fleas in the early stages.
  6. When walking your pets, avoid grassy trails where fleas reside. This includes long grass in your yard.

Here are some natural ways to get rid of fleas on your dog.

Eliminate fleas in the yard

Your yard is one of the common places where your pets pick up fleas due to wild animals.

Follow these steps to eliminate fleas in the yard:

  1. Mow your lawn regularly and keep the grass short. You can also trim bushes and rake leaves to make it uninhabitable for fleas.
  2. Treat your yard by spraying your lawn with EPA-FDA approved insecticides or use beneficial nematodes that devour fleas.
  3. Declutter your yard by removing any unwanted items that may create hiding places for wild animals like rodents or possums.


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