That Researcher With a Nematode in His Mouth

Warning: this story might make sensitive people a little queasy. Jonathan D. Allen is an invertebrate biologist, so when he started noticing a rough patch in his mouth moving around, he knew it was a parasite inside his cheek. He documented the symptoms he observed as well as you would expect a trained scientist to, and went to his doctor, who referred him to an oral surgeon.  

Referring back to the paper: “Upon presenting the oral surgeon with photographic evidence (Figure 1A and B) and a detailed description and preliminary diagnosis of gongylonemiasis, the surgeon disputed the patient’s self-diagnosis, claiming this was simply normal discoloration of the skin.”

Referring back to my notes: “My jaw just dropped,” Allen said. But he couldn’t change the surgeon’s mind. “I said, ‘Look, I study these things for a living’. And he said, ‘Well, I look in people’s mouths every day.” The scientist and surgeon did not part on a happy note. “I paid my co-pay and left. It was totally depressing.”

And he stayed depressed – “I’d lost faith in the medical profession” – until he woke up about 3 a.m. the following morning. The spot had moved toward the front of his mouth again. He realized could remove the worm himself.

Which is exactly what he did, with the assistance of his wife. Then Allen preserved the specimen and got a colleague to run a DNA test to see if it was the nematode genus Gongylonema, as he suspected. Now, I debated posting a picture of the parasite that came out of the lining of Allen's mouth, and decided against it, but you will see it at Wired, where you can read the entire sequence of events. -via Not Exactly Rocket Science


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