Tiny Parasite With Teeth Can Eat You Up Alive From The Inside
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Tue 5 Jul 2011
Source: The Herald Sun [edited]
1st case of gnathostomiasis reported from Australia
A Victorian couple endured a health nightmare after tiny worms with
teeth began eating through their bodies. It is the 1st time humans
have been infected by the parasite in Australia.
It is believed the couple became ill after eating a fish they caught
on a WA [Western Australia] camping holiday.
Alfred hospital infectious disease physician Andrew Fuller said that
when the couple ate the fish, believed to be a black bream, they also
ingested the gnathostomiasis larvae. "The worms are 1-3 mm long and
have got these sharp little teeth and they can go anywhere they like
in the body," Dr Fuller said.
The worm works its way around the human body until it dies or is
killed by the immune system.
"They move under the skin and cause itchy lumps that can make you
feel sick -- and it can be very hard to diagnose." The infected couple
suffered muscle pain, fevers, vomiting, and their skin began to look
like orange peel. They were given antibiotics and have recovered.
The worms can stay in a human for 15 years, leaving people
chronically ill. They can make their way into the brain, other organs,
and the spinal cord. "They eat your tissues," Dr Fuller said. He had
treated 28 people with the condition, who all contracted it overseas.
Neither of the latest patients had been overseas.
Dr Fuller sent samples of their blood to Bangkok. The fish was caught
in the Calder River, north of Derby, and the incident was reported in
the Australian Medical Journal.
[byline: Lucie van den Berg]
[From the US CDC
Human gnathostomiasis is caused by several species of parasitic worms
(nematodes) in the genus _Gnathostoma_. The disease is found and is
most commonly diagnosed in South East Asia, though it has also been
found elsewhere in Asia, in South and Central America, and in some
areas of Africa. People become infected primarily by eating
undercooked or raw freshwater fish, eels, frogs, birds, and reptiles.
The most common manifestations of the infection in humans are
migratory swellings under the skin and increased levels of eosinophils
in the blood. Rarely, the parasite can enter other tissues such as the
liver, the eye, resulting in vision loss or blindness, and the nerves,
spinal cord, or brain, resulting in nerve pain, paralysis, coma, and
You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body. ~C.S. Lewis