Man Goes Swimming in Pond. Ends Up With Rare Parasitic Disease. Ghastly Image Shows the Result

India, pond
An Indian man rides his bike past a pond near the banks of the Ganges river on the outskirts of Varanasi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on November 20, 2018. XAVIER GALIANA/AFP/Getty Images

An article published by the New England Journal of Medicine shows the ghastly symptoms of an unusual disease known as rhinosporidiosis, which is sometimes referred to as "strawberry nose."

According to a case report, a 27-year-old Indian man arrived at a medical clinic complaining of an obstruction in his right nostril and bleeding which had lasted for 3 months. He also told doctors that he frequently bathed in a local pond.

When physicians examined him, they found a strange red mass obstructing the nasal cavity—as can be seen in the image—which bled when it was touched.

A 27-year-old man with rhinosporidiosis. New England Journal of Medicine

"You can very well appreciate the classical 'strawberry appearance' of the lesion, i.e. a reddish mass studded with white dots on its surface," Dr. Pirabu Sakthivel, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, told Newsweek. "Hence, rhinosporidiosis is also commonly referred as "strawberry nose."

After examination, the mass was successfully removed from his nostril and the wound was cauterized in order to stop any bleeding and prevent further infection.

Subsequently, the red mass was examined and doctors were able to make a diagnosis of rhinosporidiosis—a disease which affects the mucous membranes (those which line body cavities and canals that lead to the outside) and, more rarely, the subcutaneous tissues (the innermost layer of the skin,) according to Clinical Mycology.

Aside from causing slow-growing tumor-like masses in the nasal cavity, the disease may also affect the oropharynx (the middle of the throat,) the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids,) the rectum and the external genitalia.

"The disease is notorious for repeated recurrences and profuse bleeding," Sakthivel said. "These patients might require blood transfusions due to massive blood loss."

Scientists once believed that the pathogen responsible for the disease was a fungus, but now know it is caused by a parasite known as Rhinosporidium seeberi—an organism which is located at the point in the tree of life where animals and fungi diverge.

The disease that the parasite causes has mostly been reported in humans and dogs, although other mammals and some birds may also be affected.

Among humans, rhinosporidiosis is most common in southern India, Sri Lanka and Argentina where incidence rates in some sections of the population are estimated to be around 1.4 percent, according to Infectious Diseases. However, cases do also occur in other areas of Asia, South America, Africa and Europe

"This disease is more prevalent in rural settings, particularly among individuals working in, or in contact with, contaminated soil, stagnant water (ponds, or lakes) or sand," Sakthivel said. "Contact with feces of infected livestock or waterfowl and even working in contaminated agricultural fields has also been reported as risk factors."

This article was updated to include comments from Dr. Pirabu Sakthivel.