Doctors remove a snail growing inside a boy’s abscess


Doctors removed a tiny snail from inside an 11-year-old’s abscess in the first recorded case of its kind in medical literature. 

The crustacean was slowly growing inside a pus-filled lump on the unnamed boy’s elbow.

Paediatricians in Los Angeles allowed the ‘visibly excited’ boy to keep the snail when it was removed so he could share his tale with his friends.

But the 4mm slimy subject, later identified as a chequered periwinkle marine snail, is believed to have died just a day later.

Intrigued doctors at the Loma Linda University’s paediatrics department stumbled across the bizarre case and published it in the BMJ Case Reports.

It is believed the boy was inoculated with a snail egg when he grazed his elbow while playing in a tidal pool, home to thousands of the molluscs.

A snail egg then got in the wound, hatched and then grew, triggering an abscess – a painful collection of pus caused by an infection, before it was removed.

Writing in the prestigious journal, they said: ‘An extensive literature review of major medical and scientific databases… was performed.

‘We found no documented case reports in medical literature of… marine snails living inside a bacterial skin abscess for any length of time.’

The new tale mirrors the well-documented case, in 2013, of a four-year-old boy, from Orange County, who also had a snail hatch inside his body.

Paul Franklin picked up the tiny crustacean he later nicknamed ‘Turbo’ when he grazed his knee while falling on the rocks during a holiday.

But, for reasons unknown those doctors never spoke of the case, which made headlines across international media outlets, in a medical journal.

However, the doctors revealed there were many similarities between the two cases, and suggested it was likely the snail entered the body in the same way.

In the new report, astounded paediatricians revealed the Hispanic boy a visited an outpatient clinic with a ‘blister’ on his left elbow.

He initially noticed the lesion one week before he became concerned, and noted that it had slowly been getting larger.

Upon questioning, he explained he slipped on a rock while exploring tide pools in San Pedro – seven miles (11km) away from Long Beach.

His unidentified parents, who took him to the clinic after they suspected it was an infection, cleaned his wound at the time.

The boy’s skin was red, swollen and his elbow was tender. However, he claimed it wasn’t painful and didn’t itch – two other signs of an infection.

After closer inspections, doctors decided to drain the small lump on the 4ft9in boy’s elbow using a sterile needle.

They removed a small amount of pus – but were shocked to discover a ‘small, darkly coloured foreign body’.

A sea snail and its shell, measuring 4mm in diameter, were removed from the lump. It was then sent for tests to confirm its identity.

Dr Albert Khait, who published the case, revealed they dished out antibiotics to the boy. His wound healed fully after a week.

Doctors said the mollusc survived in the boy’s abscess, described as a ‘hostile environment’ for a snail, because of its ability to seal moisture within its shell.

Most skin abscesses are caused by harmless bacteria that humans carry on their skin, but occasionally can be triggered, more unusual, ways.

A slight graze, like what the boy endured after falling on the rocks, can ‘open the door’ to parasites or opportunistic organisms, such as a tiny snail.

The chequered periwinkle, found along the western coast of the US, Mexico and Canada, can grow up to 15mm in diameter. 

Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told MailOnline: ‘This is an incredibly rare case.

‘It is fascinating that the snail managed to survive inside the skin. 

‘Whilst foreign bodies do account for some causes of abcesses, this is certainly not the underlying reason for most abcesses, which occur due to a localised skin infection.



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