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The Most Terrifying Things TikTok Says Will Kill You

Illustration for article titled The Most Terrifying Things TikTok Says Will Kill You

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Do you have an itchy butt? It’s entirely possible that a 30-foot-long tapeworm is burrowing its head in your intestines and shitting eggs. Add intestinal parasites to your crippling anxiety, a symptom of having parasites. Sugar cravings, acne, grinding teeth, farting, bloating, brain fog, uncontrolled hunger: parasites. Stop scrolling and check your poop. (According to people with no proven medical credentials who are following a TikTok trend.)

TikTok doesn’t really specify which of the many types of parasites it’s concerned about, but it has risen to end the epidemic with hundreds of videos hashtagged “parasitecleanse,” with an aggregate 10 million views. TikTokers don’t usually address what kind of organism this will flush out—“parasites”—but they’re eating papaya seeds anyway. One, who described the flavor as “dry erase marker,” later claimed to have pooped one parasite, and subsequently reported nausea and heartburn. An infectious disease expert from Johns Hopkins told Health.com that the papaya seed method “has not been shown to be effective outside of a clinical trial setting.”

Small studies in Nigeria and Kenya found papaya seeds effective in treating children with soil-transmitted helminths, associated with poverty in rural areas. While the CDC notes that most parasites affect people in “low-income countries,” it has separately warned that some parasites are flying under the radar in the U.S. It estimates one in five people in the U.S. are currently chronically infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the cat litter parasite which causes toxoplasmosis. It is incurable. There is nothing you can do about it.

But often, the doctor can just prescribe meds. The good news is that if you’re uncertain that something’s up, you can probably rule out Giardia, in which case you will may be alerted by explosive diarrhea.

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