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A Common Parasite Can Give a Rare Infection

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It is the first time that it was found that cancer cells have originated from a tapeworm. The parasite was found inside the body of a HIV patient. The cells were created in the form of a tumor that looks exactly like human tumors inside the body of a patient.

In the Journal of Medicine, England, this unusual case, was highlighted by Center for Disease Control & Prevention. The report says that a dwarf parasite, Hymenolepis nana, can cause tumors in the body of patients with damaged immune system.

A Common Parasite Can Give a Rare Infection

“Such a medical condition is very rare, the doctor should consider that a patient with a damaged immune system is also present with tumor cells”, said by the CDC researchers. Doctors must look at the cells more closely in order to avoid misdiagnosis of cancer and to find the best treatment for it.

In 2013, the patient in NEJM, initially went for CDC’s attention. The doctors had performed biopsies on the tumors found in the lymph nodes and old lungs of the 41 year old in Colombia. The tumor was in a puzzled form and grew swiftly like the cancer cells. After lab test, it was found that the cell were not human.

The researchers with the sample of its biopsy found out that the cells were really small. They were growing like cancer cells, but are really tiny – really small to be considered as human cells, stated by lead researcher of CDC’s Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch, Attis Muehlenbachs. He further said, “The cells were almost 10 times tinier than normal human cancer cells, which doesn’t make sense according to the term we understand”.

Originally, CDC suspected those cells to be some sort of mold. But, years of research work and tests were performed to understand, that it was the cells Hymenolepis nana, a tapeworm. Unluckily, the doctors did not have enough time left to start the medication for fighting the tapeworms. After 3 days, the patient died due to kidney failure.

Generally, the tapeworms do not cause any significant issues in the body of the host. Patients across the world get this parasite, either from contaminated food or by insects carrying these worms. The tapeworm stays in gut of healthy immune system people and doesn’t cause any sort of health problems. Most of us, even don’t know about their existence in our bodies, stated by Peter Olson, a professional of tapeworms at the London’s Natural History Museum.

Peter believes that the damaged immune system must be the cause for tumors. For a tapeworm to nurture inside any human body, it grows into adult on the lining of intestines. The immune system prevents the tapeworm from attacking the rest of the human body.

But in a HIV patient, the damaged immune system can’t stop the parasite from invading into other body parts, which means that larvae can travel through the body using the vessels. These vessels are generally used for carrying fluids throughout the human body known as the lymphatic system.

Along with larvae, the stem cells of parasite were carried to other body parts. Unfortunately, the patient had at least one parasite who was having uncontrolled growth of cells.

Hymenolepis nana is a very common parasite, infecting over 70 million people, at a moment. Kids are said to get infected easily especially in developing countries, where the level of sanitation is poor.

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