New study reveals tapeworms could cause cancer

Scientists with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a chilling discovery on cancer on Wednesday, Nov. 4 that involved an HIV patient from Colombia who became ill through a common stomach bug. The patient visited doctors back in 2013 after and discovered he had several large tumors in his lungs, liver, intestines and other organs. Upon further investigation, doctors found that the cells inside the tumors acted like cancer cells. The largest tumor in the patient’s lungs was 4.4 centimeters, according to the study posted in the New England Journal of Medicine. The cells were smaller than normal human cancer cells, and so the doctors contacted the CDC for assistance. It was found that the cells growth pattern was cancer-like, according to the Washington Post, but these cells fused together, which is a rare occurrence, especially for humans. After performing multiple tests, it was concluded that the cells contained DNA of a dwarf tapeworm called Hymenolepis nana. CDC researchers think that the Colombian man may have consumed food contaminated by mouse droppings, insects or human feces and ultimately ingested microscopic tapeworm eggs. The tapeworms were able to multiply rapidly because of the man’s compromise immune system, allowing the cells to invade other parts of his body. Scientists are completely baffled and worried about their findings within this investigation, as it raises many questions about cancerous cells. Generally, cancer is not transmittable, but there have been several rare cases where humans have passed on cancer cells through organ transplants or mother to fetus during pregnancy. Unfortunately, the disease inside of the Colombian man progressed, and after 72 hours after he was admitted into the hospital, he died. Although doctors weren’t able to act quickly in this case, the incident will most likely lead to further studies on cancer and the host-parasite interaction.

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