You know that story about the woman who cut her tongue while licking an old envelope and woke up a couple of weeks later with live cockroaches hatching in her mouth? Or that other one about the woman who woke up with a bug in her ear? I’m sorry, but this is one of those stories. And it starts with a guy in China drinking contaminated water.
The 60-year-old pensioner, surnamed Li, had been suffering from an itchy throat and had been coughing up blood for several months, Mirror reports. He'd consulted several medical professionals and received several misdiagnoses before he finally sought the help of specialists at the Xingwen County Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Yibin, China. There, doctors performed an endoscopy on Mr Li, inserting a camera device down his throat to see if they could locate the source of his discomfort. What they found was a large, pulsating leech, engorged with blood and clinging to the side of the man’s windpipe.
Dr Zhang Dadong, who was conducting the endoscopy, reportedly had some trouble retrieving the slippery, ten-centimetre-long parasite from Mr Li’s throat, and had to seek the help of his colleagues and an aerosol sedative to placate the leech before he could extract it with a pair of forceps. It’s thought that the man swallowed leech eggs when he drank some untreated water, possibly in his rural hometown of Daba, only for one of the larvae to hatch in his throat and feed on his blood for two solid months. Dr Zhang has since advised people to boil their drinking water, lest they end up in a similar predicament.
Mr Li’s not the only one to have been caught with a leech in his throat either. Last month, a 63-year-old woman in Vietnam underwent surgery to have what were thought to be tumours removed from her upper oesophagus. Instead, surgeons found a fat leech lodged in one of her throat sinuses, the New Straits Times reports. It’s thought that in that case the creature got in while the woman was bathing in some local spring water.
The lesson here? I’m really not sure. But it might be best to just avoid all natural sources of water from this point on, or else run the risk of ingesting blood-sucking parasites.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.