Will Holz

Causing Trouble for the Forces of Good

Tapeworm dies of Cancer, takes Man with it.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, right? Now it’s not just parasites and diseases, but also the diseases our parasites have.

Now, this story is sad and a teensy bit gross, so we’re going to post a picture of some puppies. You may need to refer back to them.


I’ve named them ‘Cloney’ by the way. They’re what I like to think the tiniest puppy in the world looks like.

So...where were we? Oh yes, tapeworms and cancers and men (oh my!)

The story begins in Colombia, where a 41 year old man came in complaining of cough, fatigue, fever, and weight loss checked into a hospital in Medellin.

The poor guy already had a compromised immune system, but the doctors also found something sad and strange. The sad part was he also had tumors in his lungs and lymph nodes. The strange part was that they were made of the tiniest little cancer cells anybody’s ever had.

That’s because they weren’t his.


Like a whole lot of people, he also had dwarf tapeworms. (The Tyrion Lannister of the tapeworm world). One of these tapeworms (we’ll call her ‘Shirley’) was sick too.

Shirley was dying of cancer.

Every animal on Earth has cells that are constantly having their DNA hammered by viruses, radicals, and plain old entropy. We have all kinds of clever tricks to clean things up when they get messy, but change happens. A cancer is just a cell that decided to strike out on it’s own and it just so happens to know how to live in a very specific environment (for your cancers...and you have them right now...it’s you!).


It was too late for Shirley long before she arrived at that hospital in Columbia. It was also too late for her man.

Shirley’s cancer was clever. Tapeworms are great at hiding from our immune systems...otherwise they wouldn’t still be around, and this one had all the DNA that Shirley had, including the ‘hide from the man you’re living inside’ ones.


Shirley’s man may have outlived her, but unfortunately it was too late for him too. The little proto-Shirleys were too much for him to handle.

As far as we know, this is the first case of cancer hopping from a parasite to a human host.


As far as we know...

For more on weird cancers in the wrong places...

Here’s one that swims through the ocean, looking for new clams to invade.

Then there’s the one that’s tragically wiping out the Tasmanian Devils.

Everybody forgets the poor hamsters.

And here is my personal favorite, the previously mentioned Cloney, the Tiniest Puppy.


About your host.

Puppies from Enduser255

Tapeworms from the East Virginia Medical School

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