Outbreak News Today

Taiwan: 8-ft tapeworm removed from young girl

A 8-year-old Taiwanese girl went to see a doctor after complaining of something moving and itching in her anus and what they found was a 260 cm (about 8 feet and a half) long tapeworm, according to an Apple Daily report (computer translated).

D. latum image/Video Screen Shot

The child likely contracted the lengthy parasite from eating raw or undercooked fish, doctors said.

The parasite was identified as Diphyllobothrium latum, or the fish or the broad tapeworm.

The parasite was removed and the child was treated with the anti-helminth drug, praziquantel and follow-up testing shows she is clear of the parasite.

What is the fish tapeworm? It is several species from the genus Diphyllobothrium with D. latum being most common. The adult tapeworm can grow in excess of 50 feet in length.

It occurs in lake regions in the northern hemisphere but cases are seen in the sub-arctic, temperate and tropical zones where eating raw or partly cooked fish is popular.

Read more about Diphyllobothrium latum in Parasitology 101 on Outbreak News Today

The disease is frequently asymptomatic, however some people develop vitamin B12 deficiency (pernicious) anemia. Very heavy infections may cause diarrhea, obstruction of the bile duct or intestine and toxic symptoms.

Humans and other animals infected with this tapeworm can disseminate eggs into the environment for many years as long as worms remain in the intestine.

Diagnosis is by identification of the characteristic eggs in feces. Praziquantel is the treatment of choice.

Prevention of this disease is by thorough cooking of freshwater fish.

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