“Crazy” and “unusual” case of tapeworm tumours

Doctors have reported that a man in Colombia has died with tumours made of cancerous parasitic worm tissue growing in his organs.  The 41 year old man had been suffering from HIV and a weakened immune system and doctors had tried to diagnose the cause in 2013.

The patient had what appeared to be normal tumours in his lungs, liver and elsewhere around his body, some measuring more than 4cm across.  However, on closer inspection the cancerous cells were tiny just a tenth of the size of normal human cells.  Doctors were baffled and couldn’t decide if it was shrinking human cancer cells or a new infection.  Eventually molecular testing revealed a high level of tapeworm DNA  in the tumours.  Unfortunately the patient was too sick by the time doctors had identified the cause of the tumours and died a few days later.

The worm tissue came from the dwarf tapeworm Hymenolepis nana. It appeared that one of the eggs penetrated the lining of the intestine, mutated and became cancerous.

Image result for dwarf tapeworm pictures copyright freeThe article about this case appears in The New England Journal of Medicine  

Extract summarised from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34721419


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