A Fresno, California man who walked into a hospital complaining of bloody diarrhea discovered that he had been hosting a 5-foot Japanese salmon tapeworm.
In the Jan. 8 episode of medical podcast “This Won’t Hurt A Bit,” Dr. Kenny Banh recalled how the man asked to be tested for worms and what he did next.
“I take out a toilet paper roll … and wrapped around it of course is what looks like this giant, long tapeworm.”
Aside from bloody diarrhea, the patient also complained of abdominal cramps. It was in the toilet when he found that something wrong was going on.
“I looked down and it looked like there was a piece of intestine hanging out of me,” Bahn quoted the man as saying.
The patient was horrified at the idea of his intestines coming out, but found relief when he pulled and realized what it actually was.
Apparently, the tapeworm came “wiggling out” of his body and moved in his hand.
Hospital staff laid the worm over a paper and measured it at exactly 5 ½ feet.
The patient could not remember how he acquired it, but after saying what he consumed regularly, Bahn figured it out.
“I eat raw salmon almost every day.”
Fears over the Japanese salmon tapeworm, or Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, came to light in January 2017 when a team of researchers reported its discovery in a wild salmon in Alaska.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said that the Japanese tapeworm is from the same family of other tapeworms, presenting similar symptoms of abdominal discomfort, nausea, loose stools and weight loss, among others.
According to the CDC, such tapeworms can grow up to 30 feet in length. One severe complication is intestinal obstruction.
Dr. Bahn’s patient is only one of the many cases of parasitic infection from salmon. In 2016, a Canadian man who bought raw salmon and tried to make his own sushi suffered severe abdominal pains. The culprit: anisakis worms, which had to be removed through surgery.
The Fresno man says he will not be eating salmon again in the immediate future.