A man’s “holiday of a lifetime” almost ended his life after a parasite travelled into his penis and laid eggs.
British man James Michael was travelling with friends in August 2017 from Zambia to Zimbabwe before stopping at their final destination in Malawi, where the group spent five days canoeing and swimming on the Malawi River.
When the 32-year-old returned to home to Kensington, it wasn’t until October when he began to loose feeling in his legs, but put it down to fatigue from cycling, Mr Michael told UK publication The Sun.
When basic tasks like climbing the stairs to his apartment became too exhausting, he checked into Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where he was given antibiotics and discharged.
A week later Mr Michael returned and demanded medical staff examine him again.
"I explained to them that something serious was going on,” he told The Sun.
After a series of blood tests and a visit to the neurology department Mr Michael was told his immune system was attacking his spine which was why he was losing the use of his legs, but they had no idea what had caused it.
After a six month course of steroids, doctors from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases eventually discovered a parasitic worm had travelled through Mr Michael’s penis and laid its eggs in his body.
He was diagnosed with schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, which is an infection if left untreated can have severe consequences.
The infection is caused by parasitic worms living in bodies of fresh water in tropical regions commonly found in Africa.
Once the worm enters a body it moves through blood to areas like the liver and bowel to lay eggs, those eggs are usually killed by the immune system.
Mr Michael was prescribed medication called praziquantel that kills the worms, but had extreme side effects.
He spent three months in hospital confined to a wheelchair, experiencing severe painful acne on his back and arms, and diarrhoea.
The 32-year-old was unable to use the bathroom, shower properly or even hug his girlfriend.
"The pain has been like nothing I've ever known,” he told The Sun.
The infection is now gone but Mr Michael told The Sun it would take over decade to recover completely.
“I was left basically debilitated. They told me there was a 30 per cent chance I'd make a full recovery – 10 years from now,” he said.
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