After a man in China complained to doctors about stomach pain, medical professionals discovered a 20-foot-long tapeworm to be the culprit.
Doctors say the 38-year-old man caught the parasite from eating raw beef, the Daily Mail reports.
The man had abdominal and stomach pain for two years, as well as loss of appetite, weight loss and anemia. The hospital admitted the man after he continuously vomited for three days, which made him extremely weak.
Initially doctors did not find anything “remarkable” until they examined stool samples under a microscope, where they discovered a tapeworm’s egg.
Doctors immediately fed the man both a laxative and a drug for parasitic infections. A few hours later, the patient excreted the 20-foot-long tapeworm.
After examining the parasite, medical professionals identified it as a Taenia saginata, a beef tapeworm. They concluded their patient caught it from eating raw beef.
After a few months, the man gained his appetite and weight back.
While the man’s love for beef led to the illness, the parasite can also be caught in other ways. For example, eating undercooked, infected pork and fish -- or swallowing water or food with traces of contaminated feces -- can also lead to infection.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. It's also possible to have no symptoms, which means that the parasite can go undetected, leading to serious medical issues later on that can affect the brain and cause seizures.
While it is a more common problem in developing countries, recent cases elsewhere have caught international attention and concern.
In November 2015, doctors told a man in California he only had 30 minutes to live after they discovered a tapeworm in his brain, The Independent reports.
Luis Ortiz, 26, had complained of severe headaches for three months and memory problems before a brain scan revealed the tapeworm’s existence.
While doctors were able to perform life-saving emergency surgery, neurosurgeon Dr. Soren Singel confessed, “it was a close call.”
“The doctor pulled it out and he said it was still wiggling ... what are the odds I’d get a parasite in my head?” Ortiz wondered.