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Doctors faced a rather unusual case of lung tumors when a Colombian man, suffering from HIV had his lung tumors biopsied. The biopsy of the cancer cells revealed that the rapidly growing masses weren’t human cells but from a tapeworm living inside the person. The doctors confirmed that this is the first case of a person getting sick from cancer cells which grew inside a parasite.
The study researcher Dr. Atis Muehlenbachs, a staff pathologist on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch said: “We were amazed when we found this new type of disease—tapeworms rising inside a person, essentially getting cancer that spreads to the person, causing tumors“.
The Colombian national was suffering from HIV and that’s most likely what made him susceptible to this unusual phenomenon and allowed the parasite cancer to develop in the first place. Although that is an extremely uncommon case, the researchers pointed out that millions of people around the globe are affected by both HIV and tape. This made them think that there might be more cases out there which went unrecognized.
The 41 year old Colombian complained to his doctors about fever, persistent cough and important weight loss for the course of a number of months. He had been diagnosed with HIV 10 years ago and wasn’t on his meds.
The doctors did a CT scan which revealed tumors in his lungs and lymph nodes, but when they biopsied the tumor cells they realized something is off. This encouraged the Colombian doctors to reach out to the CDC for a analysis.
Microscopic analysis of the cells revealed that they were indeed cancer cells, they multiplied rapidly and crowded together, however, they most definitely weren’t human. They were 10 times smaller than human cancer cells. The researchers started doing exams to find out what sort of cells they discovered inside the unlucky man. The tests revealed DNA from a tapeworm called H.nana in the man’s tumor which was stunning because the cells didn’t resemble cells from this kind of tapeworm. Additional test finally confirmed that they were actually H.nana cells.
According to the researchers and their assumptions, the fact that the man had HIV enabled this to happen. His weakened immune system failed to notice the tapeworm and react accordingly which enabled it to develop and spread. With time mutations developed in the tapeworm cells which made his cells cancerous. The patient died within 72 hours after the researchers determined the tumors were truly brought on by the tapeworm.
What is especially frightening about this case is that H.nana is the most common tapeworm in peoples, infecting extra that 75 million people around the globe at any time. And the researchers identified that even if they come across more cases like this one, they aren’t positive how to deal with it. The standard therapy for tapeworms won’t work on the cancerous cells, however human cancer therapy could be effective.