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New Type of Parasite Found in Guts of North Korean Defector

"It is causing tremendous complications," says surgeon.

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Surgeons in South Korea discovered a new type of parasite in the body of a North Korean defector.

The defector, who had been shot five times while crossing Demilitarised Zone between the two countries, went through two rounds of surgery in South Korea due to his injuries. Dr. Lee Guk-jong found more than thirty parasites in the defector’s stomach and intestines, including “a parasite never seen in Koreans before.”

The parasites infecting Lee’s patient, including the as-yet-unknown one, are often contracted by eating produce fertilized with human manure. Roundworms block the intestine, which causes malnutrition and, in more serious cases,  pancreatitis, appendicitis, and peritonitis. Lee told the BBC that his patient had “an enormous number” of worms infecting his gunshot wounds, and said he’s “never seen anything like this in my 20 years as a physician.”

The incident is a rare, and damning, insight into conditions in North Korea, validating reports of widespread poor health and nutrition in the country. Seoul National University’s Choi Min-ho told The Guardian that “medical experts assume that parasite infection problems and serious health issues have been prevalent” in North Korea, but cannot be confirmed because North Korea suppresses any information deemed to harmful to the country’s image.

More specific information about the new parasite is still forthcoming as of press time.

Read full story at Korea Biomedical Review