A Parasitic Worm Eats Czech Woman’s Kidney, Kills Her

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Hana Foldynova, 76, was admitted to the Krnov Hospital in Northeastern Czech Republic, after her physician discovered blood in her urine. She had complained of excruciating abdominal pain. Doctors thought it was a blood clot, but when they went in for surgery, they were shocked to discover a blood-red, 3.9 inch-long parasite living in one of her kidneys.

To complicate matters, a second, smaller worm, two inches long, was found in her bladder. Doctors removed both worms, but it proved to be too late to save the woman. Her physician was stunned at the discovery.

“When patients have blood in their urine, it is usually caused by some kidney stone, inflammation or cancer. But this was very surprising for us. Her family said she loved seafood. We assume she was infected after she ate badly cooked fish.”

The parasite in her kidney was identified as a giant kidney worm, called Dioctophyme renale, that is not uncommon in dogs but extremely rare in humans. Surgery is the only method of removal; if not removed, it will destroy the kidney it inhabits. It is assumed that the bladder worm was the same, but doctors sent both worms to a lab for analysis.

Unfortunately, the woman had been weakened significantly by the parasitic worms, was unable to recover from surgery, and died soon afterward.

It’s unclear how the parasite entered Foldynova’s body, as the usual method is by eating badly cooked fish, Dr. Ivo Odstrcil, head urologist at Krnov Hospital, told CEN.

A giant kidney worm can live in the human body for up to five years, according to scientific literature, although human infestation is extremely rare, and the current case is the first and only one recorded in the Czech Republic.

Although quite rare, there have been other tragic infestations of kidney parasites in humans. According to the Daily Mail, two patients died after having been given transplanted kidneys that contained a parasite.

In 2014, Darren Hughes, 42, and Robert “Jim” Stuart, 67, were each given a kidney from a transplant donor who was carrying a deadly worm in his organs when he died. They both were patients at a hospital in Wales, and physicians were completely unaware of the parasitic infection when they transplanted the organs. It is so uncommon that it is not routinely tested for, as are other diseases prior to transplantation. This particular worm that killed Hughes and Stuart is a bit different than the one that killed Foldynova. It is transmitted through soil and commonly found in horses.