Tue, Feb 27, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Man falls ill after eating raw frogs

FRIENDS' ADVICE The 70-year-old thought he was treating his backache. Little did he know that by eating the frogs he was ingesting deadly parasites

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A 70-year-old man in Kaohsiung suffered eosingophilic meningitis caused by a parasitic nematode infestation that reached his brain after eating raw frogs sashimi-style.

"It's never a good idea to eat raw frogs or snails," said Lai Chung-hsu (賴重旭) of E-da hospital's infectious disease department. Lai authored a paper on the case that was recently published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) reported that following advice from his friends, the man ate eight small frogs about 4cm to 5cm long to treat his aching back and lumbar area.

Practitioners of a local folk remedy claim that a patient can strengthen his bones by eating raw frog meat and bones. After catching the creatures, the man cleaned, gutted and chopped them before eating them dipped in soy sauce and washed down with liquor.

However, consuming uncooked frog also carries the risk of ingesting parasites and the man unwittingly became infected with Angiostrongylus cantonensis -- or rat lungworm -- a parasitic nematode endemic to Southeast Asia and the Pacific region.

The parasite usually lives in the lungs of its rodent hosts, producing eggs that hatch into juveniles that travel up the respiratory tract and into the hosts' digestive system.

Feces containing the juveniles then pass into an intermediate host, usually snails, but also slugs, fish, small molluscs and, in this case, frogs.

If an intermediate host is ingested by a human, the adult parasite works its way from the digestive tract into the blood and eventually migrates to the brain, causing eosingophilic meningitis.

The worm then dies in the brain without completing its life cycle, Lai said.

After the incubation period had passed, the man began to demonstrate symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pains and a loss of strength all over his body, the Liberty Times reported. After going to several hospitals without obtaining a prognosis of his condition, he ended up at Kaohsiung county's E-da hospital where he was finally diagnosed and treated, Lai said.

He suffers from no apparent lasting ill-effects from the episode.

The man subsequently identified the frogs he ate as Rana Plancyi, or the green pond frog.

"This is the first documented case of an Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection after eating raw frog," Lai said. "It is far more common to find the infection caused by eating raw snails. In recent years, Thai workers have become infected after eating raw snails with lemon juice -- which they are wont to do in Thailand."

"There have also been cases of Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection after patients consumed contaminated vegetable juice," Lai said.

Lai said that the severity of eosingophilic meningitis depends on the quantity of parasites ingested.

"In severe cases, the condition might cause long-term neurological damage or even death," he said.

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