Sunday, February 25, 2007
Beware the Vampire Fish!!
From "Dr. Harmless: Public Service Reporter"
Last night I was part of a conversation that included several GravyHeads, when our good friend Shel told the story of a fish that was feared because it swam into the urethra of male genitalia. She said it was known as the "Vampire Fish". Feeling a sense of duty to my fellow GravyHeads, I decided to investigate this vampire fish, and follow up with a report here to warn you, our loyal public.
What I have uncovered may shock and horrify you. It will certainly prevent you from going skinny dipping in certain parts of our planet (if you had ANY common sense!). Most of all, it will make you think twice before underestimating something that might be on the small side, because even something small can be quite potent!!
The Vampire Fish is officially known as the Candiru or Canero (Vandellia cirrhosa), and is a freshwater fish that is a member of the catfish group. It only grows to a size of 1-2 inches in length and 4-5 millimeters, or a little less than an inch, wide (10 mm=2.5 inches), although it has grown to a size of 6 inches. It is shaped like an eel, and is translucent, making it near impossible to see in the water. It is a fast and powerful swimmer. It is slimy and smooth, with sharp teeth and backward pointing spines on its gill. The Vampire fish is found primarily in the Amazon and Oranoco rivers and is regarded by the most feared fish in the waters by the natives.
The Candiru is considered a parasite, meaning that it is an organism that depends on a different organism to survive, while contributing nothing to the host organism. It typically swims into the gill cavities of other fish, erects the spines along its gill to hold itself into place, feeding on the blood in the gills of the host fish, hence, the name "Vampire Fish of Brazil".
However, the reason it is feared most by Humans is because it is the only vertebrate known to parasitize humans. The fish is supposedly addicted to the smell and taste of human urine, as well as blood in general! If a human is bathing nude in the water and urinates (and tell me you've NEVER done it and I'll call you a liar!!!), the candiru tastes the urine stream and follows it back into the human. There, it will swim into the source orifice, be it vagina or penis, if it is following a urine stream, or the vagina or anus, if it following a blood flow. If it is the urethra it swims into, it will swim deep into the urethra, lodges itself in the urinary tract, erects its spine (yes...it will get erect, too!), and begin to feed on the blood and body tissues in the same way it feeds within the gills of a fish. As it feeds, the body becomes engorged with blood, becoming further lodged within the urethra. The fish continues to feed, eating away at the mucous membrane surfaces, causing bleeding, infection, and eventual hemorrhage and sepsis, which will eventually kill the host. Typically, surgery is the only way to remove the Candiru, with penectomy generally being preferred to the pain, misery, and eventual death if the fish is left in the urethra.
There are some local traditional ways reported to remove the fish, primarily involving the mixing the juice of the green fruit of the Jagua tree (Genipa Americana)and Buitach apple. The first use of the juices is to insert the plants or their extracts into the affected areas. This supposedly will kill and dissolve the fish. The other way is to take the juice of the green fruit of the Jagua tree, brew it into a tea, and, if drunk hot, it will allegedly cause the skeleton of the fish to be dissolved and expelled from the host within a few hours. But more often, infection causes shock and death in the victim before the fish can be removed. I can also imagine irreparable damage to the penis is caused as well....Fortunately, these fish are not found here in the United States, and legislation is being put forward to ban ever importing these fish into the US. One can only imagine the devastation it would cause here in the states, because of the high volume of idiots who do indeed enjoy skinny dipping and urinating in rivers...
So what's the take home message? First, don't skinny dip, unless its in your own pool or hottub. Second, and I stress this point, if you do skinny dip, DO NOT URINATE INTO THE WATER!!!. And if you disregard these two warnings, make sure you have some extract from the green fruit of the Jagua tree handy, otherwise, you might be finding yourself with some serious shortcomings!!!
This has been an investigative report from Dr. Harmless, solving one problem at a time!!!!