A nine-foot tapeworm was removed from a man’s rectum in Singapore, according to a report by the Daily Mail Online. The unnamed man did not know that a tapeworm was growing inside his intestine because there were no symptoms of having a tapeworm, such as severe abdominal pain. Experts at the Department of Microbiology of Singapore General Hospital believe that the man became infected most likely because of ingesting raw fish.
“The patient was somewhat appalled when the worm was passed out via the rectum,” said Hsu Li Yang, an infectious diseases expert at the hospital.
Hsu shared the details of the 2016 case to elaborate the issue of people being infected with parasites after consuming raw or undercooked seafood. He also explained that the worm was an actual tapeworm because no other human parasite could grow that long.
“The question is what tapeworm, which will also help answer how the patient had acquired the worm,” he said.
Infections from tapeworm occur after eating the larvae of Diphyllobothrium found in freshwater fish like salmon. Typically, humans get infected from eating sushi or raw fish that has been infected with the worm in its larvae stage. The hatching larvae stick themselves to the wall of the intestines of the fish; then the worms infect the flesh of the fish. As soon as a person gets infected, a tapeworm will grow inside the intestine as long as 15 meters within a few weeks. It can continue to live for years and can remain undetected for weeks or months, as well as release its eggs that infect other body parts of the person. Furthermore, if the larvae start to move to other parts of the body, they can begin to eat away at the liver, eyes, heart, or brain and cause life-threatening conditions. Symptoms of tapeworm infections include fatigue, constipation, and abdominal discomfort, which can be very mild that the victim may not observe anything wrong.
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Consumption of raw fish in Singapore and all around the world continue to gain attention in the middle of the increasing popularity of sashimi. Cases of tapeworm infections not only increased in more impoverished areas but also in more developed countries.
In California, a man who ate sushi went to the emergency room of Community Regional Medical Center after finding a five and a half feet tapeworm that was “wiggling out” as he sat on the toilet, according to another Daily Mail Online report. Dr. Kenny Bahn told this story on the podcast This Won’t Hurt A Bit. The patient thought at first that his intestines were coming out, but when he started to remove the worm, it started moving. The man reported that he ate raw salmon every day, which most likely caused the infection. (Related: Beware: US salmon may be crawling with Japanese tapeworm, say scientists.)
Preventing tapeworm infections
To reduce the risk of getting infected by tapeworms, refrain from eating raw or undercooked pork, beef, or freshwater fish. Prepare meat and fish well and cross-contamination between raw meat or fish and cooked dishes. Wash vegetables and fruits before eating them. Remember to wash hands with soap and water before preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, and after close contact with animals. Lastly, make sure that the water you drink is clean whenever you travel abroad.
If you’d like to read more news stories and studies about raw foods, visit RawFood.news.