Live beetles buzz out of baby's body

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By KUHELI CHAKRAVORTY in Siliguri
  • Published 26.06.03
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Siliguri, June 26: Live dung beetles have emerged from a perforation in the lower part of the body of a two-and-half-year-old boy in a rare phenomenon known to be occurring in tropical countries.

Medical experts described the condition as a case of “scarabiasis or canthariasis”, a rare disease prevalent among children aged between two and five.

The child was admitted to School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta for further investigations yesterday.

Sources said the baby, a resident of Hakimpara, was being treated by a paediatrician, S.B. Mantry, for lack of appetite, abdominal cramps and weakness.

Last week, the boy’s parents had showed Mantry an insect which, according to them, had come out while he was defecating.

They informed the doctor that similar insects had buzzed out earlier, only this time they had caught it before it could take wing.

Mantry was reportedly taken aback when he was shown the beetle-like insect, which had bright yellow strips on its black body.

The doctor advised the child’s parents to have the specimen pathologically examined by Supada Mallick, a local pathologist.

A surprised Mallick referred the case to another pathologist, S.K. Roy, last Saturday, who described the disease as scarabiasis, better known as the “beetle disease”. He confirmed that the insect that had come out of the baby’s body was a dung beetle.

“Medical parasitology terms this disease scarabiasis or canthariasis, where beetles temporarily infest the digestive tract. This disease is very rare or should we say, rarely reported,” Roy said.

According to experts, the disease usually invades the gastro-intestinal and the urinary tracts. On rare occasions, the nose and eyes also get infested by the larvae, causing severe irritation.

“The 5-mm-long insect with a pair of wings looked like a ‘dung beetle’ but it is up to the entomologists or taxonomists of the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta to identify the order and species of the insect,” Roy said.

The experts said the case was apparently similar to the one that had surfaced in Burdwan Medical College Hospital last month. Then, 13-year-old Chandan Goswami had stunned doctors after flies flew out of a part of his crotch at regular intervals. Doctors had diagnosed the disease as myiasis.

The disease is usually prevalent in central and southern America but mostly in animals. Goswami is now admitted at SSKM hospital in Calcutta.

Roy said scarabiasis is known to occur among children in tropical countries.

“We have found a reference of this disease in a medical journal, which says a case like this happened in India way back in 1966. The symptoms of this disease are loss of appetite, diarrhoea, cramps in the abdomen, long continuing fever and loss of weight. The baby has been suffering from all of these,” he said.

“The disease is not at all that scary. It can be treated with saline purgatives, which helps remove the larvae from the body. Drugs like Metronindazole help kill the larvae. It is, however, a rare disease,” said Mridula Chatterjee, head of the department of paediatrics, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital.