A 3-year-old toddler was found to have a rare tapeworm inside of him.
The boy was infected with the worm after eating raw fish that his father caught. The worm, a Pacific Broad Tapeworm, had never before been found in a human in Australia and is most commonly found in fish-eating mammals.
“'While symptoms are generally mild, and were not significant for this patient, our findings and reports from the last 90 years suggest these tapeworms are endemic in fish-eating mammals found off the Australian coast, and more human cases can be expected,” Andrew Thompson, professor of parasitology at Murdoch University, told the Daily Mail.
“People who eat fresh, raw marine fish are most at risk.”
Samples of the tapeworm were sent to researchers at Murdoch University after the boy discovered it in his system.
Infection from the tapeworm is possible through consumption of sushi and sashimi, the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reported.
“On an individual level, consumers should be aware of the risks of diphyllobothriasis [the disease associated with Pacific Broad Tapeworms] with consuming uncooked fish,” researchers stated. “Sushi and sashimi are now available not just in restaurants, but also in the deli sections of many grocery stores. Marketers should consider affixing labels to the packaging, assuring consumers that proper preparations have been completed to minimize risks of fish tapeworm.”
The boy’s symptoms included diarrhea and poor appetite, and he was ultimately treated for his illness. The child had never traveled overseas but often ate fish that his father caught on fishing trips, the CDC reported.
Thompson told the Daily Mail that climate change could be responsible for the worm surfacing in Australia.
“It is possible that temperate water currents off southern Australia are changing thus affecting the distribution of the fish hosts of the parasite,” he said.