Picture Credit: AsiaWire
A young boy with a bulging stomach was found to have over 2 pounds of tapeworm larvae floating around in large cysts in his abdomen and chest.
The four-year-old, who is surnamed Liu, was treated at Shenzhen Children’s Hospital in China’s southern Guangdong Province.
His mum, who always thought his bulging belly was a result of eating too much, finally sought out experts after he began complaining of discomfort in his stomach and a loss of appetite.
Wang Jianyao, the facility’s head paediatrician, scanned the boy’s torso and was shocked by what he found.
“We discovered two large sacs in his chest and abdominal cavities,” Wang said.
He added: “The chest cavity sac was especially large. It pressed against the right lung to the point where it was nearly impossible to see. That’s why when the child arrived he also had some difficulty breathing.”
Blood tests confirmed that the young patient had contracted cystic echinococcosis – also known as hydatid disease – which is an infection of the cystic or larval stage of the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus.
The large sacs in his abdomen and chest were also at risk of bursting, which would have released the tapeworms into the rest of his body.
Doctor Wang and his team performed a two-stage surgery on the four-year-old, beginning by extracting over 1 litre of larvae-filled liquid from the sacs in his body.
The empty sacs – now free from the risk of bursting – were then surgically removed shortly after.
The boy is expected to make a full recovery but will be monitored for further signs of parasites.
There is currently no vaccine against hydatid disease, and the most effective form of prevention is personal hygiene.
Patients contract the tapeworm infection by coming in contact with contaminated animal faeces or hair, with the disease therefore more prevalent in areas that rely more heavily on livestock.
The incubation period for the often symptomless condition is anywhere between one and 30 years, meaning many sufferers are unaware of the tapeworm infection until they undergo surgery for an unrelated illness.
The boy’s mother revealed that when he was 11 months old, he spent six months living on his grandmother’s farm in China’s north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.