From botflies to eye worms, a brief history of rare parasites in humans | Health

After a stay roundworm was discovered within the mind of an Australian lady, we check out different uncommon circumstances of parasites turning up unexpectedly and discover how anxious we ought to be.


A tune by the homophonous band may offer you an earworm, however an infestation of beetle larvae may cause a illness generally known as canthariasis.

Researchers in China reported such a case in 2016 in an eight-month-old lady with an underdeveloped immune system who had an irritable feeling. She was initially described as having worms in her stool, however additional investigation revealed the creatures to be larvae of Lasioderma serricorne, generally generally known as the cigar beetle.

Lasioderma serricorne
Lasioderma serricorne, generally generally known as the cigar beetle, is a pest of tobacco, herbs and lots of of different vegetation
{Photograph}: Tomasz Klejdysz/Alamy

The group say the beetle’s eggs may have been swallowed when the lady had contact with mud or ate oranges, which she had just lately consumed.

Whereas uncommon – the authors say their report is the primary such case – they observe such an infestation might be critical.

“This report implicates that L serricorne can infest human accidentally and cause canthariasis that may lead to severe damage to infant and older patient upon involvement of important organs of the body,” the group wrote.

Eye worms

In one other stomach-turning first, a girl in Oregon was found to have a kind of eye worm beforehand solely seen in cattle in 2018. The worm larvae are picked up and unfold by flies which feed on cow tears.

After horse driving in Gold Seashore in an space the place cattle are farmed, the lady, 26, skilled per week of eye irritation. The trigger was found when she pulled a small worm from her left eye. She sought medical assist, and 14 worms have been subsequently eliminated,most of them by the affected person herself.

One of the worms removed from the woman’s eye
One of many worms faraway from the lady’s eye. {Photograph}: CDC handout/Reuters

The tiny worms, every lower than a centimetre (half an inch) lengthy, have been discovered to be of a species known as Thelazia gulosa.

Dr Richard Bradbury, the lead writer of the examine that reported the case and who works with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention’s division of parasitic illnesses and malaria, mentioned on the time that the an infection was uncommon.

“Infections from Thelazia worms mostly happen in animals and humans are just incidental hosts,” he mentioned. “This is incredibly interesting and I’m sure it might make some people squeamish, but it’s not something people should worry about.”

Rat lungworm

Graham McCumber, 24, ended up in hospital in Hawaii experiencing joint stiffness, fatigue and nausea after consuming kale from his backyard. The trigger, it turned out, was rat lungworm, a parasite prevalent in south-east Asia and tropical Pacific islands.

A rat lungworm
A rat lungworm. {Photograph}: medicalNN/Shutterstock

The grownup worm lives solely in rodents, however its larvae can infect creatures together with slugs, snails and freshwater shrimp. Ought to these intermediate hosts be eaten by people, the larvae may cause angiostrongyliasis, a illness that impacts the mind and spinal twine.

McCumber survived, however he was not alone. There have additionally been experiences of individuals changing into contaminated with rat lungworm after swallowing snails for a dare. Some circumstances are gentle, however others could be deadly.

Consultants say the illness could be prevented by washing and cooking greens, snails, crabs or shrimp completely, checking greens for snails and slugs and avoiding consuming uncooked greens the place the parasite is prevalent.


Infestation with maggots, generally known as myiasis, is uncommon within the UK and US, however it has been present in individuals who had travelled to tropical and subtropical areas.

A tumbu fly larva in a human myiasis
A tumbu fly larva in a human myiasis.
{Photograph}: Robert Lind/Alamy

In a single case, docs eliminated three stay botflies, every two centimetres in measurement, from a girl’s eye, arm and neck. The 32-year-old American had skilled a swollen eye for 4 weeks after visiting the Amazon rainforest.


Parasites is usually a actual headache, as a 50-year-old man in Britain found when docs discovered a tapeworm in his mind.

The affected person had been experiencing complications, seizures, reminiscence flashbacks and unusual smells for 4 years earlier than docs eliminated the worm in 2012, revealing it had burrowed from one aspect of his mind to the opposite.

A cestode, or parasitic tapeworm
A cestode, or parasitic tapeworm. {Photograph}: Science Image Co/Getty Pictures/Assortment Combine

The worm was found after MRI scans revealed an uncommon cluster of rings that have been discovered to be shifting by way of his mind. Scientists subsequently revealed it to be a kind of tapeworm generally known as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, which is usually present in amphibians and crustaceans in China.

Medical doctors behind the invention mentioned the person had in all probability picked up the parasite when visiting China, probably by way of contaminated meat or water.

Dr Hayley Bennet, who labored on the case, mentioned on the time: “Humans are a rare and accidental host for this particular worm.”

Much more weird is the invention by consultants in 2015 that when tapeworms get what seems like most cancers, their human host can develop tumours.

The invention was made after scientists within the US have been requested to analyze biopsies from lung tumours and lymph nodes taken from a 41-year-old man who had HIV. The group discovered cancer-like cells, however revealed they weren’t human. As an alternative they have been from a standard sort of tapeworm known as Hymenolepis nana.

Dr Peter Olson of the Pure Historical past Museum in London, who labored on the case, mentioned such conditions have been very uncommon and solely present in sufferers who’re closely immunocompromised.

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