New Delhi: In the first recorded case of its kind in medical literature, doctors removed a tiny sea snail from inside an 11-year-old's abscess.
The boy, it appeared, had grazed his elbow while playing in a tidal pool in California, which harbors thousands of molluscs. Doctors believe that a snail egg must have found its way into the wound, hatched and then grew, triggering an abscess – a painful collection of pus caused by an infection – before it was removed.
The team of doctors at the Loma Linda University's pediatrics department was highly intrigued after they stumbled across the bizarre case and published it in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the doctors 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.'
In 2013, a similar case of a four-year-old boy was documented, who also had a snail hatch inside him.
As per the Daily Mail, Paul Franklin picked up the tiny crustacean he later nicknamed ‘Turbo’ when he grazed his knee while falling on the rocks during a holiday.
However, doctors never mentioned it in any medical journal, despite the case making headlines, for unknown reasons.
Highlighting the similarities between the two cases, doctors suggested that the possibility of the snail entering the body, in the same way, was high.
In the present case, the 11-year-old Hispanic boy visited an outpatient clinic with a 'blister' on his left elbow.
A week after he got the lesion, the boy noticed it had slowly been growing in size and he became concerned.
On questioning, the boy explained that he had been exploring tide pools San Pedro – seven miles (11km) away from Long Beach – when he slipped on a rock and grazed his elbow.
While his symptoms – no pain and no itching – indicated that it was clearly an infection, doctors, after closer inspection, decided to drain the pus on the boy's elbow using a sterile needle.
They removed a small amount of pus - but were shocked to discover a 'small, darkly colored 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 and his wound had fully healed a week later.
Doctors said the boy's abscess was a 'hostile environment' for a snail because of its ability to seal moisture within its shell, which is why it survived.
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.
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.