A giant tapeworm measuring 20 feet long has been discovered by doctors after it was excreted by a Chinese man who had complained of stomach aches.
The Daily Mail reports:
The 38-year-old had gone to hospital after three days of vomiting and feeling weak.
There, he told doctors that over the past two years he had suffered from pain in his stomach and abdomen, loss of appetite, weight loss and long-term anaemia due to iron deficiency.
Medics from the Hubei University of Medicine, in Shiyan, China, examined him but found ‘nothing remarkable’, the New England Journal of Medicine reports.
But when they looked at his stools under a microscope they found an oncosphere – the egg of a tapeworm.
The man revealed he had a tendency to eat raw beef, which is a known cause of infection with such worms.
Doctors immediately gave him the drug praziquantel, which is used to treat parasitic infections.
He also drank mannitol, a colourless sweet-tasting crystalline alcohol, as a laxative.
Two-and-a-half hours later he excreted a tapeworm that was more than 6.2m in length.
A tapeworm is a parasite that can live in a person’s bowel. It tends to be flat, segmented and ribbon-like.
Humans can catch them by touching contaminated stools and then touching their mouths, by swallowing food or water that contains traces of contaminated faeces or by eating undercooked, contaminated pork, beef or fish.
After the man’s worm was sent for analysis, it was, unsurprisingly, identified as a Taenia saginata – a beef tapeworm.
Beef tapeworms can grow up to 25m in length, though most are around 5m long.
Its head – known as a scolex – attaches to the surface of the small intestine via suckers.
Doctors identified the worm’s scolex and also found it had thousands of segments attached to the head and neck containing eggs – known as the gravid proglottid.
These eggs tend to break off and are excreted in the faeces.
Symptoms of a tapeworm infection include stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea as well as weight loss and malnutrition.
However, some patients have no symptoms and are unaware of their infection until they see segments of the worm in their stools.
Fortunately for the man, beef tapeworms can be easily treated with medicationand after three months he had a follow up meeting and had regained weight and his appetite had returned.
However, infection with other tapeworms can lead to serious complications.
This is because their larvae can settle in other parts of the bod, including the muscle and brain – and can cause seizures.
Tapeworm infections are most commonly seen in the developing world – they are rare in the UK.
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