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5 Things You Didn’t Know About … Candiru Infection

June 30, 2008

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT … Candiru infestation

This week’s subject, which was highlighted in a 2007 episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” is not for the squeamish:

1. Something in the water: The candiru, also known as the vampire fish and toothpick fish, is a member of the catfish family and is prevalent in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America.

2. Attractive smell: The odor of human urine attracts the candiru. It will follow a stream of urine, swim inside an orifice and use its series of spines to lodge itself in the urethra, where it will cause hemorrhaging.

3. Get to a hospital: Any attempts to yank out the tiny, nearly transparent candiru will cause excruciating pain because the fish’s spines point backward. Folk remedies may be fatal. Treatment involves extensive surgery. Without treatment, death can result from sepsis.

4. Survivor: In one documented case that aired on “Animal Planet,” victim Silvio Barbossa, who had been swimming in the Amazon, remembered: “The candiru attacked me … . I was terrified. I grabbed it quickly so it couldn’t go deeper inside. I could only see the end of its tail flapping. I tried to grab it, but it slipped away from me and went in.” See video: www.youtube.com/watch?veSLKZzuLC00

5. Prevention: Chances of being attacked are slim. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid skinny dipping and urinating in the Amazon or Orinoco rivers.

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