Digestive health

A giant, writhing worm was spotted on a sonogram inside a man's stomach - not for the faint of heart

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  • A medical case study recounts when a young man was admitted to ER with abominable pains, diarrhoea and vomiting
  • A sonogram showed that a giant roundworm was writhing in his stomach
  • With medication the infestation was killed and he passed the remains through his digestive system

Fair warning - this story will leave you feeling a little queasy.

When you hit up the emergency room with stomach pains, the last thing you think you're going to see is a giant worm having a party in your intestines.

Case study from India

That’s exactly what happened to a poor 20-year-old man admitted to an emergency room in India, reports The New England Journal of Medicine. He had been suffering from vomiting, diarrhea and severe abominable pains.

His doctors conducted a sonogram on his stomach and spotted a tubular object moving around inside. You can see the unnerving video here.

They analysed his stool sample and found fertilised eggs from ascaris lumbricoides - a parasitic giant roundworm - confirming what was making its home in his insides.

Ascaris worm
Ascaris worms make their home in the intestines.
Left: A tubular echogenic structure that moved with a curling motion seen inside the lumen of the stomach. Right: Fertilised eggs in feaces. (Pic: The New England Journal of Medicine)

They gave him a single, large dose of albendazole - a common treatment for parasitic worm infestations - and sent him home.

Two weeks later, he confirmed that he saw the carcases of the worms in his stool.

READ MORE | Woman’s sore throat turned out to be worm in tonsil

What is ascaris?

According to the CDC, ascaris worms make their homes in intestines and proliferate their offspring by sending their eggs through the digestive system of their host into the feaces.

This can make its way into soil, where it might catch a lift into another host on unwashed vegetables, fruits or through the dirt if it comes into contact with someone’s mouth. The eggs can also be consumed through polluted water sources exposed, for example, to sewage.

You are diagnosed with ascariasis if you suffer from an infestation and in the beginning you might have very few symptoms.

Besides what the Indian man experienced, heavy infections can also block your intestines and stunt growth in children, and also cause some coughing as it moves through your body.

Is it found in South Africa?

In South Africa, ascaris can be common in under-served communities with large shack-dwellings where sewage systems aren’t up to par, alongside other types of parasitic worm.

The immune response against infestations can also have a detrimental effect on people living with HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

Now you’re going to be scrubbing your fruits and vegetables a lot more thoroughly after your next grocery shop.

READ MORE | Woman discovers her headaches were caused by tapeworm larvae in her brain

Image credit: New England Journal of Medicine

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