Parasitic tapeworm with cancer kills man by cancer
The 41-year-old Colombian man was HIV positive. What killed him, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was the cancer he caught from the parasitic tapeworm.
The US Centres for Disease Control and the UK’s Natural History Museum diagnosed the unusual type of cancer. Dr Atis Muehlenbachs, who discovered the oddity, says: “It didn’t really make sense… this had been the most unusual case”.
The tumours appeared to be normal and some were more than 4cm across and found in his lungs and liver. But after further inspection, the infected cells were found to be a tenth of the size of normal human cells. Molecular testing identified high levels of tapeworm DNA in the tumours. The patient was unable to be treated by the time doctors had identified what the tumours were. He died three days after the worm DNA was discovered.
The worm tissue came from the dwarf tapeworms, known as Hymenlopis nana, which is a specialism of Dr Peter Oslon from the Natural History Museum. He said: “It is able to carry out its whole lifecycle in one host and that is absolutely unique.”
And absolutely hideous.
Parasitic tapeworm with cancer kills man.