Sushi is a delicious, stylish, exotic and dangerous food. The recent case of a Chinese man with an extreme infestation of worms following the consumption of raw fish is one of many cases that highlights the dangers faced after eating sushi. This man sought medical attention following severe stomach pain, irritated skin causing his rightfully suspicious doctor to quickly ordered a full body scan.
The result of the scan was so shocking it made headline news. Worms called Diphyllobothrium had made their way through his entire body after eating sushi and the case was so severe it become life threatening. All types of fish and including farm raised fish have the ability to contain harmful parasites if eaten raw or undercooked. These tiny parasites in the form of immature worms can be consumed by humans and survive through the ingestion and predigesting processes.
Named after the parasitic worm, Diphyllobothriasis is a serious disease with symptoms that include diarrhea, abdominal bloating, stomach pain, weakness, loss of appetite and unexpected weight loss. An infected individual can die from exposure to these common fish tapeworms if the brain becomes infected or the the condition persists for too long untreated. Cases are often undetected for week, months or in some extreme cases even years after eating sushi.
The consumed eggs or larvae of this worm rapidly grow after eating sushi this is contaminated. Adult fish tapeworms which can reach 30 feet in length and are the largest parasites to affect humans. They can be transmitted though the bloodstream as eggs and live in the intestinal track of the host. Some hatched larvae take up to six weeks to mature.
Some research studies indicate after eating sushi may not be the only time to worry if a fish tapeworm might be finding its way to the fish lover’s small intestine. These studies state that even well smoked, traditionally marinated, and even undercooked fish have the ability to transmit this prolific worm.
To treat Diphyllobothriasis, single dose of Praziquantel, 5–10 mg/kg PO once is used to eradicate the worm from the system, that must still be physically passed by the carrier. Other treatments exist, but are not yet approved for use by the FDA. A scope may be used to locate the parasite, determine its point in development and estimate its size. The use of this diagnostic medical tool sometimes causes the parasite to detach and allow for passage by the carrier.