A report last June in the British Medical
Journal The Lancet turned up a new and
especially fierce parasite. The story began
like this: An AIDS patient in California
visited his doctor complaining of weight loss
and belly pain. CT scans revealed a large
mass in his abdomen. A snip of tissue from
the growth turned up cells that a host of
experts could not identify. Nine weeks later
the patient died.|
An autopsy discovered that three-fourths of
the man's liver was gone. Several growths
were removed, including an eight-inch tumor
from his abdominal cavity. About a tenth of
the cells in the tumor looked very strange for
cancer cells. "They were too small to be
human," says Luis Fajardo, Stanford
pathologist and one of the authors of the
Lancet report. Moreover, they contained
plenty of silicon, which is extremely rare in
Further study of the tissue turned up
sac-like structures filled with many cells. Still,
they didn't bear any clear resemblance to any
known pathogens. Finally, microbiologist
David Relman of the Stanford Medical
School analyzed DNA from the sac cells,
selecting one familiar gene and comparing it
with the versions of the gene existing in other
organisms. He did not find an exact match,
but he did find a strong resemblance to a
gene in the tapeworm family.
The genetic resemblance proved to be the
only solid clue: the researchers now believe
they may have discovered a new and
uncommonly awful tapeworm. "Maybe this is
a parasite that only infects individuals that
are immunodeficient," says Fajardo. "But it
was so aggressive that one worries whether
this parasite can also infect other
individuals." -Sarah Richardson from the Jan
1997 issue of Discover.
Ed. Note: It is estimated that 85% or
more of the population of the U.S. is
infected with parasites! Parasitic
infection, once the scourge of third-world
countries, has exploded in recent years.
In North Carolina, 110 doctors have
recently signed a petition to Vice
President Gore for aid in attempting to
deal with deadly fish parasites that have
infected their coastal water fish and the
people who eat them. These fish have
become weakened by continued exposure
to chemical runoff and hog wastes that
are dumped into the waters.
Some of the other causes of increased
parasitic infection are increased travel,
lack of hygiene, increased ownership of
indoor pets and the use of solvents in food
processing, which when ingested dissolve
the egg sacs, releasing the little critters in
organs outside the digestive system. At
present there are more than 1,000 types of
parasites feeding off our internal organs
and vitamin/mineral enriched
The following is a Doctor's partial list of
symptoms that accompany parasitic
- eating more than normal, but not
- forgetfulness, unclear thinking, slow
- loss of appetite.
- gas and bloating.
- problems with menstrual cycle.
- blurry or unclear vision
- yellowish face
- numb hands.
- drooling while sleeping.
- teeth grinding
- rapid heartbeat.
- itching ears, noses, rectum