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A Woman in China Tried to Cure Her Cancer by Swallowing Maggots

When she checked back into hospital, doctors thought the woman's cancer might have relapsed—until they found her intestines riddled with fly larvae.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
A beaker full of maggots
Image via Flickr user Ange Gilroy, CC licence 2.0

Here’s a quick piece of advice: when a friend tells you that swallowing maggots cures cancer, they’re wrong. There’s no evidence to suggest that guzzling a bottle of fly larvae does anything good for your inner health. In fact, as a woman in China recently discovered, the reality is quite the opposite.

The woman, surnamed Li, was in the recovery stages of lung cancer when a friend suggested that eating a bunch of maggots could completely eliminate the growth from her body, according to The Epoch Times. This friend claimed to have previously treated a malignant tumour using the same folk remedy. So Li thought she’d give it a go. And then Li got very, very sick.


When she started complaining of severe chest pains, acid reflux, and heartburn, doctors at the Xi’an City-Central Hospital, in Shaangxi Province, suspected that Li’s cancer had relapsed. After already having undergone a bevy of more conventional treatments including surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, she’d appeared to be on the road to recovery—but these new symptoms prompted some follow-up assessments.

“The first thing we wondered was, did it [the cancer] metastasize?” said Wang Zheng, head of the hospital’s Oncology Department. “So we used the standard assessment process for tumours and gave her a complete evaluation.”

Doctors found that Li’s situation was completely stable. “There weren’t any traces of the tumour relapsing or metastasizing,” according to Wang. So they performed an endoscopy and had a look in her stomach.

“We discovered that there were parasites in her intestines, and what’s more is that they were still moving,” said Wang. “Finally, after we asked the patient in detail [about her condition], the patient told us that one month ago, she swallowed a bottle of maggots.”

Doctors promptly administered medicine to kill the maggots, and by the next day Li’s pain was gone. She has since left the hospital and is following doctor’s instructions. But she isn’t the only person to have been hospitalised in recent times as a result of a snake oil folk remedy.

More recently, a woman in Hunan province caused damage to many of her internal organs after hooking herself up to an intravenous drip and administering fruit juice directly into her bloodstream, The Epoch Times reports. The woman—surnamed Zeng—claimed she “had thought that fresh fruit juice had plentiful health benefits.” She was rushed to a university’s intensive care unit, where it was found that her body’s ability to clot blood was blocked and she was diagnosed with sepsis. She made a full recovery.

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