Doctors have reported the death of a Columbian man who contracted cancer from a H. nana tapeworm living inside him. This is the first known case of a human getting sick due to a disease that developed in a parasite. "We were amazed when we found this new type of disease — tapeworms growing inside a person, essentially getting cancer, that spreads to the person, causing tumors," said study researcher Dr. Atis Muehlenbachs, a staff pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch (IDPB). The 41-year-old man was also diagnosed with HIV, which doctors believe to have played a big part in weakening his immune system and contributed to the growth of the parasite’s cancer.
Researchers note that while this particular case is rare, HIV and tapeworms affect millions around the world. There is a real possibility that “there may be more cases that are unrecognized.” H. nana is the most common tapeworm in humans and has been known to infect 75 million people globally. Should similar cases be discovered, researchers are still unsure what kind of treatment patients should get, as drugs designed to treat tapeworm infections might not be able to eliminate the cancer cells. At present they believe that normal cancer treatment might be an effective treatment.