Candiru: The Willy Fish
By Rebecca Hernandez
The nasty Vandellia cirrhosa, otherwise known as the candirú fish, was the one parasite that I insisted was an urban legend. Or, more accurately, a rural Amazonian legend.
We’ve all heard the story of the little fish that jumped into a man’s urethra as he was relieving himself in the Amazon River. It lodged itself inside and began greedily feeding on the man’s blood inside his penis. The poor guy eventually had to get the thing whacked off. Fact or fiction?
While the details may be sketchy, the set up is most certainly true. Candirú have been known to swim up into whatever bits you might have while you’re enjoying a dip in the Amazon, settle in nicely and start chowing down on your blood.
Immense pain and haemorrhaging follow, and thanks to the candiru’s expandable spines, they are virtually impossible to remove without surgery or, ahem, amputation. Planning on peeing in the Amazon? Best save it for the outhouse.
Here's a short, and not too gruesome, documentary on the case of the candirú:
Interesting fact: A traditional cure involves the use of two plants, the Jagua plant and the Buitach apple which are inserted into the affected area.
Danger of death: Unless the candirú is cut out from your privates it ain't going to go anywhere. The chances that you'll die from a related infection are actually quite high.
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