A man who regularly enjoyed eating raw meat was recently reported to have found a six-meter-long tapeworm growing inside of him.
According to the case report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the 38-year-old, who lives in Central China, went to doctors complaining about an intense pain in his stomach, lack of appetite and chronic anemia, the man’s symptoms suddenly worsened with vomiting, weakness and rapid weight loss. The worsening of his health forced him to go to the doctors, where they quickly referred him to the Department of Infectious Diseases at Renmin Hospital in Shiyan, China. He told the doctors, who initially found “nothing remarkable”, that he enjoyed consuming raw beef as part of his regular diet and brought a parasite fragment he found in a stool for examination.
They just found an oncosphere – the larval form of a tapeworm.
So, the doctors gave the man praziquantel and mannitol, an antiparasitic drug and cathartic drug, respectively. This combination first paralyzes the worm and then “flushes” it out of the body by speeding up defecation.
Based on an examination of the worm and, of course, his penchant for eating raw beef, the doctors diagnosed the man with a beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata) infection. Tapeworms enter the body as eggs or larvae onboard contaminated food, in particular raw or undercooked meat, where they travel down to the small intestine and attach themselves to its wall. They can live there for years, often causing no more than a sense of fullness and nausea.
According to Jian Li, one of the doctors who diagnosed the man, said that tapeworms are actually pretty rare in central China where this case was reported. While the northwest and southwest districts of China have a high rate of tapeworm infection, there haven’t been any reports of tapeworms in central China for 30 years. Tapeworms are rare throughout theUnited States and Europe, with infection rates much higher in developing countries.
Three months later, the man was reportedly back to full health and had regained his appetite for food – hopefully that doesn’t include raw beef anymore.