Medical Minute 11-23: Invasion of a Body Snatcher

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

Another busy night in the Brewer family kitchen, with 21-year-old Adam playing master chef. He nearly lost his family and more a few months back.

"It was pretty weird that a doctor could tell you they didn't know what was wrong with you," he said.

A trip down the Missouri River left him in bad shape and doctors didn't know why.

"None of them ... [they] said 'Nope, not in my area'. He doesn't have this-and-this ... so they rule that out," said Peggy Brewer, Adam's mother.

"I was pretty much a puzzle to all the doctors ... I guess. Pretty much everybody, too," said Adam Brewer.

With his health spiraling, all tests came back clean. Then, doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis asked him a simple question: Had he ever eaten raw crawfish?

Why? Experts say Midwestern rivers have been deluged with the tiny parasite found in crawfish. It's called para-gonimus and it normally lives in Asia. Adam's case is just one of 13 ever recorded in the U.S..

"Someone came up to me and asked me to do it and I said sure, why not?" Adam said.

The state of Missouri issued this health alert after five other cases were recently diagnosed. The paragonimus worm is a half-inch-long, and breeds in your stomach and brain. Side affects include excess fluid around the heart and lungs - and vision trouble.

"The consequences can be devastating. Fortunately, with treatment, they seem to be reversible," said Michael Lane, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine.

After weeks in bed, the medication - used to kill tapeworms - did the trick.

"For it to last that long and be cured by just 30 pills in a week, is mind blowing, actually," said Adam.

Health officials still worry thousands more cases are out there. As for Adam: He's back to normal - after a bout with a heck of a sea-going scare.

For More Information, Contact:Washington University School of Medicine Saint Louis, MOEmail :

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