According to new research from the Department of Veterans Affairs, hundreds of vets may be slowly killed by a deadly parasite they were infected with during the Vietnam War.
The study was commissioned by the VA after a spike in bile duct cancer among Vietnam vets. Researchers had suspected that the rare form of cancer may have been spurred by a parasite the men ingested after eating undercooked fish.
Fifty vets got tested for liver fluke, but 20 percent learned they had it in their systems. Tropical medicine experts explained that the team tracked the parasite’s presence by looking at the antibodies generated by the body to fight them off.
The research team acknowledged that there may be some false positives involved.
Northport VA Medical Center s confirmed they received the blood samples and submitted them to a laboratory. The center refused to comment on the results but added that affected vets were briefed.
Vietnam Vets Killed by the Mystery Parasite
Many vets who served in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) said they had friends who were killed by the parasite. One of the vets who tested positive for river flukes said he was shocked when he learned the diagnosis.
The man, who is now 69-year-old, said he had no symptoms whatsoever during those years. He also learned that the parasite was responsible for a couple of cists on his bile duct, which could later spur cancer. Doctors removed the cysts and the man is out of harm’s way. He agreed, though, to take part in the VA study to maybe help save lives.
Liver flukes infect around 25 million people mostly in Asian countries. It is a rare infection among Americans. The parasites live in jungle waters in Vietnam and can be easily killed if the water is treated.
However, without proper treatment, they infect their host but take years to sicken them. They are mainly responsible for damage and swelling to the bile duct which can lead to a rare form of cancer called cholangiocarcinoma.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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