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The horror: Indian doctors remove 6-foot tapeworm through a patient’s mouth

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Meet Taenia solium

Doctors in India remove a 6-foot tapeworm through a patient’s mouth
The New England Journal of Medicine ©2017

In a video of the surgery, two hands in latex gloves are seen pulling what looks like a white fettuccine out of a man’s mouth. Except, that never-ending white string is not pasta, it’s a tapeworm. It’s a 6-foot tapeworm.

The surgery occurred at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences Hospital in New Delhi, India. The 48-year-old patient had abdominal pain for two months before getting checked out. A colonoscopy showed that the parasite was infesting the man’s guts. Next, the doctors performed an endoscopy — they inserted a camera in the man’s stomach and upper intestine, which also showed signs of infection.

The doctors then operated on the man, using forceps to remove the tapeworm from the patient’s mouth. Even they were surprised of how damn long the parasite was. "It kept on coming,” one of the physicians, Cyriac Phillips, told CNN. “I have never seen a tapeworm this long before this particular case." The surgery, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes, took place in 2014, but was described last week in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The pork tapeworm
The New England Journal of Medicine ©2017

The 6-foot monster was identified as Taenia solium, also called a pork tapeworm. People can become infected if they eat undercooked pork that carries it, or gets into contact with contaminated feces. These parasites are usually 6.5- to 26-feet long (two to eight meters) and can produce 50,000 eggs per worm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because the tapeworm doesn’t usually create symptoms, it can live inside a person’s body for years. But that doesn’t mean it’s harmless: T. solium can cause cysts in the brain and muscles — an infection called cysticercosis. In the most severe cases, cysticercosis can cause seizures and strokes.

After the surgery, the patient was given a deworming medication for six months to kill any eggs or larvae remaining in his guts. One month after the procedure, the man seemed to be doing well, the study’s authors write.

If you’re brave enough, you can watch video footage of the surgery, including a shot of the wriggling tapeworm inside the patient’s colon, on the NEJM website.