We all know that our bodies harbor some rather nasty substances, but it seems that the consensus is that most of those types of things are only in there temporarily. While it is true that many of those bodily fluids are on their way out of there, many of these organisms have taken up residence in your body, and they are here to stay.
A tapeworm, the spargana parasite gets inside you and noshes on your brains. It can live inside you, its accommodating host, for up to 20 years and can grow nearly one foot long. Most of the 52 cases that have popped up in the years since 1943 has been in Thailand, and are the result of eating undercooked meats, such as frog legs, snakes or birds, or from drinking water than is contaminated. It’s a good thing this nasty, brain-eating parasite mostly affects other animals, and does not seek out people onto which to dine for their next meal.
Another parasite that you can get when you eat raw or undercooked meats, such as frog legs, pork, chicken, crustaceans and freshwater fish, is the gnathostomiasis spinigerum. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) label the disease caused by this worm-like organism to be an imported disease that is emerging. What this means is that as people travel to beautiful places, such as Southeast Asia and Central American, they could be introducing a parasite that can live for up to a decade inside your body as it moves beneath your skin, making it swell. Thank goodness they cannot reproduce while they live inside a human.
3. Naegleria fowleri
A heat loving brain ameba that is usually only found in freshwater, such as hot springs, rivers, lakes and ponds, Naegleria fowleri is almost always deadly. It killed two boys in the United States during the summer of 2013 alone, though only about 130 people have been infected by the amoeba since 1962. By entering the person’s body in water, this organism attaches itself to a nerve in the nose before causing something called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Symptoms of PAM are often the same as a meningitis infection that is bacterial: stiff neck, vomiting, headache, nausea and vomiting.
4. Japanese lung fluke
The Japanese lung fluke is a kind of (surprise!) parasitic worm. When you eat either a crab or crayfish that is infected with the Japanese lung fluke, the larvae moves rapidly once they hit your intestines. They then develop into young worms who penetrate the intestinal wall and end up in your stomach within just 30 to 60 minutes of landing in you, their gracious host. After a six to ten day period of growth in your stomach wall, they move to your lungs where they cause cysts, resulting in a lung infection. This organism is found primarily in East Asia.
This is one type of catfish that you won’t want to eat. The candiru is a tiny fish without scales that likes to live happily in the cavities of the gills of other fish. Sometimes affectionately known as the ‘toothpick fish’ due to its eel-like look, this catfish enters the urethra of unsuspecting swimmers, and feeds on their blood. Found in the mighty Amazon River, this one inch long fish can grow to be up to six inches long. Once inside your body, the tiny toothpick fish can cause hemorrhaging, inflammation and even death.
6. Filarial worm
Caused by the bite of the mosquito, the microscopic filarial worm infects the lymphatic system of humans. A concern mostly in the warm and tropical climates of the world, such as the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, the Western Pacific, the disease caused by this thread-like worm, lymphatic filariasis, affects more than 120 million people, but not, according to the CDC, the United States. Since it affects a person’s lymphatic system, it can suppress the infection fighting capabilities of the body, often leading to an increase in bacterial infections.
7. Screw worm
Though the screw worm, a flesh-eating worm that is the larvae of a fly that looks almost like your everyday, mostly harmless housefly, has been eradicated in the United States since 1959 (thanks to an aggressive yet simple strategy) some unfortunate people are still subjected to the miseries it brings upon its host. While hiking in Peru, a British woman shooed a swarm of flies away from her ear. Little did she know that a fly had actually made it into her ear and managed to lay eggs which then hatched into larvae that started chewing on her tissues.
8. E. Coli
We hear a great deal about e. coli, and there is a good reason for this. This organism can make you very sick, and even kill you. At the very least, it can make you wish you were dead. There are all sorts of types of e. coli that live in our bodies, and many of them are harmless, or even good for us. We don’t hear about those too much though. Maybe this is because there are so many seemingly innocent ways we can get the bad kinds of e. coli. Unwashed fruit can harbored the bacterium and it can also be found in meat that is not processed correctly.
Though salmonella is often in the news, we usually think that it is passed on to us after eating or drinking something that has been infected with the bacteria. A slightly different strain of salmonella, salmonella typhi, can cause typhoid fever which can then result in death if it is not treated quickly and aggressively. This type of salmonella infects the blood, and is, fortunately, quite easy to controlled. There are only about 400 cases of typhoid fever in the United States each year with the vast majority of those occurring after travel to countries that are less industrialized.
This tiny and friendly parasite normally lives in the intestinal tract of animals and people. It is passed from person to person due to contact with the feces of someone (or something) that is infected. While most people who get sick from this parasite are exposed to due to drinking untreated water or while traveling internationally, some unlucky souls ingest it when they drink water that is infested with it. This hardy little nuisance can survive being treated with chlorine, though heat will destroy the cysts.