A wacky medical tale surrounding an emergency room visit in California last August has hit the news cycle, and we suggest those without strong stomachs to stop reading now.
According to the doctor-run podcast, This Won’t Hurt A Bit, a no-nonsense Fresno man removed a tapeworm from his own rectum and later presented it to the bemused staff of a local Hospital.
Dr Kenny Banh, the attending ER physician at the time, recounted the bizarre events that unfolded after the patient marched into the Community Regional Medical Center and requested de-worming medication while holding a mysterious plastic bag.
“He asked me for worm treatment and I was like oh, not an everyday request,” Dr Banh told his colleague, and the podcast’s co-host, Dr Jessica Mason.
Quizzical at first, Dr Banh quickly agreed to his patient’s claims after opening the bag and finding a 1.7-meter-long (5.5-foot-long) adult parasitic flatworm curled around an empty toilet paper roll.
Apparently, the patient had discovered the worm after experiencing bloody diarrhea accompanied by the strange sensation that something else was exiting his body.
“And you know what’s racing through his mind is he’s dying. He’s scared to death he’s got something terrible,” Dr Banh said. “He’s like ‘oh my goodness my guts are coming out of me,’ so he grabs it and he pulls on it, and it keeps coming out.”
“He picks it up and looks at it – and what does it do? It starts moving.”
Freaked out to find a giant worm, but relieved that his entrails are intact, the quick-thinking man used the nearby TP roll as a spool to wind up the worm as he pulled it out. He then popped it into the aforementioned bag and headed straight to the nearby ER.
Hoping to avoid the experience again, the patient was keen to learn how he contracted the tapeworm. It took only a brief medical history to point Dr Banh to the likely culprit. The patient reportedly ate his favorite meal of salmon sashimi almost every day, and (sorry to upset sushi lovers) scientists have shown time and time again that uncooked fish is swimming with parasites, including a nauseating array of flatworm and roundworm species, plus a few protozoans.
Happily for the patient (and any readers who are now concerned), treating a tapeworm infection is simple. Typically, a single anti-parasite pill – the same that people give their cats and dogs – is all it takes to kill most tapeworms. These drugs are administered even if a large worm is removed, as in this case, because these organisms have segmented bodies that easily break apart and then regrow. Plus, each segment that comes off has the potential to create thousands of eggs and can crawl independently until they’re released.
On his way out of the ER, requested medicine in hand, the patient vowed to Dr Banh that he would never eat raw seafood again.
Anisakis worm, a parasite of marine mammals, present in raw blue whiting fish. It can be dangerous for humans that eat raw fish like sushi. Gonzalo Jara/Shutterstock