The internet is flooded with stories about a sushi loving guy and his 5 ft. tapeworm in Fresno, CA that was discussed on a podcast recently.

Image/yossigee via pixabay
Image/yossigee via pixabay

Often when you think of the parasite risk with raw sushi, you often think of the roundworm, Anisakis sp. However, in this case it appears the young patient was infected with a cestode or tapeworm from the genus Diphyllobothrium, likely the Japanese broad tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense.

Sushi, sashimi and worms, oh my!

Many cases of diphyllobothriasis are asymptomatic; however, because of it’s large size (can grow up to 30 feet long), a patient may experience abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. Vitamin B12 deficiency leading to pernicious anemia may occur. Complications include intestinal obstruction and gall bladder disease.

Diphyllobothriasis is treatable with antiparasitic drugs like praziquantel or niclosamide.

LISTEN: Diphyllobothrium: The largest known tapeworms that can infect people

As Senior Associate with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Dr Amesh Adalja said in a CBS News interview-The risk of contracting the tapeworm from your sushi is low — but it exists.

“When you’re eating uncooked fish — or other raw foods, like unpasteurized milk — there is some inherent risk,” said Adalja.