The Lung-Worm Story

This is 100% True and it Happened to Me.

I have just got over what started out as a severe flu-like viral infection, feeling cold, sweating, aching all over, head-ache, nausea, loss of appetite and as that subsided the worst cough of all. Initially an irritating dry tickle at the back of my throat but as the days progressed it developed into a full on chesty cough bringing up copious quantities of vile, pus-like, foul-tasting, yellow-green phlegm. Several visits to the doctor and courses of antibiotics failed to clear me of the affliction but eventually the cause of my illness was discovered.... I had a lung-worm! A parasitic creature living inside my left lung probably caught by eating infected, undercooked pork.

I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation, an unpleasant procedure known as a parasitodectomy. This involved having having an endoscope, a finger thick plastic cable with a fibre-optic viewing system and a miniature manipulative claw device passed down my throat into my left lung. I then spent several unpleasant minutes with the doctor moving the endoscope around in an attempt to locate the parasite. To get an idea of how this felt try pushing a finger down your throat as far as it will go. After about ten minutes, which felt considerably longer, the doctor informed his colleagues that the lung-worm had been located and he was going to catch it. Apparently the lung-worm lies almost stationary in the lung, feeding off blood found in the narrow branches of the hosts lungs so catching it involved not much more than grabbing it firmly with the claw. Next came the most difficult part, pulling the parasite out of my lung. A steady hand was needed. The doctor later explained that if he failed to pull out all of the lung-worm or if it broke in two it would regrow, possibly in both lungs. Luckily he was able to get all of it. As he pulled it out I had to resist the urge to vomit as this would have broken the worm. I couldn't believe the length of it, it was over three feet long, and a pale white colour with mucus dripping off it. The doctor said it was a small one and that I was lucky to have been diagnosed so early as they can grow to over ten feet long. Within a few days my cough cleared up.

I have been back to the hospital a couple of times for further tests to check for evidence of further lung-worm infection or eggs but so far they have all come back negative, thank goodness. The horror of finding a creature living inside me and feeding off my blood was a terribly unsettling experience. It is not something I would want to go through again.

I was back at the hospital recently for another lung-worm check-up, more unpleasant tests but fortunately they still came back negative. At least we now know how I came to be infected. A few weeks before my illness I had some Haggis. One of the main ingredients of Haggis is chopped pig lungs. Delicious but deadly. The doctor is 90% certain that that was the cause as it is the main cause of lung-worm infection in Scotland, especially now when so many people cook their Haggis in a micro-wave oven instead of the traditional method of slowly cooking it in a pot of simmering water. The doctor asked me if I had engaged in any deep-tongue kissing since eating the contaminated Haggis. I had not but was intrigued by his strange question. It transpires that the second most common way in which lung-worms spread is by deep-tongue kissing or french-kissing as it is also known. The doctor explained that kissing in this manner causes an increase in saliva production in the mouths of both parties and some saliva from the uninfected person is transferred to the mouth of the infected person. The lung-worm can detect this and will crawl from the hostís lung into their mouth and then into the uninfected persons mouth. It then breaks off about an inch of itself which is carried down to the lungs in a stream of saliva where it makes its home effectively infecting the uninfected person. Upon separation of the inch long segment the main part of the lung-worm recedes into the hosts lungs where it will engorge on blood to make up for the lost segments of its own body.

The doctor then told me a story which he found quite humorous but which I did not. He claimed that in the olden days, when lung-worm infection was far more prevalent than today, a popular old wives tale was that in order to get rid of their lung-worm an infected person should engage in deep-tongue kissing with a sheep. This would cause the lung-worm to crawl out of the sufferers lung, through their mouth and into the sheeps mouth. This is because sheep have better developed lungs than humans (that's why sheep can run faster than humans in spite of having less powerful legs). This deep-tongue kissing with sheep witnessed by ignorant townspeople in the countryside has led to the idea that country folk engage sexually with sheep, presumably the deep-tongue kissing is seen as foreplay. I am not making this up, it is what the doctor told me. Honest.

Seamus D. King.