Doctors pulled a foot-long worm out of a woman’s intestines and they think it came from invisible parasitic eggs she accidentally ate

It's rare that a person with ascaris will show any symptoms.

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It’s rare that a person with ascaris will show any symptoms.
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Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

  • After complaining about stomach pains for more than 10 years, a Chinese woman underwent surgery where doctors removed a foot-long parasitic worm from her intestines, according to Fox News.
  • Doctors found that the woman had ascaris, a parasitic infection that occurs when a person accidentally ingests parasite eggs through contaminated water or food.
  • The infection is spread through human feces and infected people typically show no symptoms.
  • To protect against a parasitic infection, wash your hands and thoroughly clean any produce before you eat it.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

After a Chinese woman complained about stomach pains for more than 10 years, doctors performed surgery and found the cause of her pain was a foot-long parasitic worm inside of her intestines, Fox News reported.

Before her surgery, the 41-year-old woman had gone to multiple doctors for her pain, but the worm went undetected until her recent surgery.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Dr. Li Juan, the woman’s surgeon, reportedly told AsiaWire. “Her intestines provided the ideal conditions for the parasite to grow, but it was still surprising to see a case in person.”

After conducting more tests, Dr. Juan found that the woman had ascaris, a parasitic infection that happens when a person ingests food or water infected with parasitic eggs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.2 billion people around the world have ascaris.

Although Dr. Juan was unable to pinpoint exactly how the woman became infected, it’s likely that she ate produce that wasn’t properly cleaned or drank water that contained the parasite eggs, which are small and difficult to see. (Indeed, the woman said she’d consumed unboiled and therefore potentially infected water.) Then, presumably, the parasitic worm was able to grow inside of her intestines.

The parasite eggs can get into produce or a water supply and spread to other people if human feces are used to fertilize soil or remain on the ground, according to the CDC website.

Read more: Scientists made a discovery that could change how we treat parasitic diseases

It’s hard to tell if you have ascaris

It’s rare that a person with ascaris will show any symptoms, but if they do, stomach pain is one. Additionally, coughing could be a symptom and signals that the parasite is moving through the person’s body, according to the CDC.

Since symptoms are rare or mild if a person does have any, doctors diagnose the parasitic infection through a stool sample. Using a microscope, doctors can look for parasitic eggs in the stool that could have caused a person’s infection.

Sometimes, it’s possible for an infected person to poop or cough the parasite out of their bodies. If you think this has happened, the CDC recommends you take the specimen to your doctor to be examined.

Anthelmintic medications are used to treat people with parasites in their bodies, and take just one to three days to work, according to the CDC.

Most times, parasitic infections don’t lead to health issues, but if you have multiple parasites in your body, you can develop an intestinal blockage, severe pain, and vomiting, according to Healthline.

Washing hands and properly cleaning produce can prevent the spread of the parasitic infection

Ascaris is uncommon in the United States. Still, washing your hands and making sure anything you eat has been thoroughly cleaned (especially foods grown in manure-fertilized soil) can protect against ascaris and parasitic infections in general, the CDC noted.