Doctors find live snail in California boy’s elbow abscess

Feb. 12 (UPI) — Pediatricians in Los Angeles said they were treating an 11-year-old boy’s skin abscess when they made an unusual discovery — a live snail inside the wound.

Dr. Albert Khait, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Loma Linda University in Los Angeles, said in a case report published by website BMJ Case Reports that an 11-year-old boy came into the pediatric ward with a skin abscess about a week after he scraped his elbow in a tide pool on a California beach.

Khait said he and his colleagues followed regular procedure for such wounds by lancing and draining the abscess, and they soon discovered a hard object measuring under .02 inches in diameter.

Closer inspection revealed the object was a snail, later identified as a checkered periwinkle marine snail.

Khait said he was surprised to find the snail was alive. Khait said doctors determined the boy had apparently gotten the snail’s egg embedded in his elbow when he scraped it, and the mollusk later hatched inside his body.

“The unique characteristics of this intertidal mollusk appear to have enabled it to survive in the subcutaneous tissue for a week, despite the hostile environment of a skin abscess,” he wrote in the report’s abstract.

“This case emphasizes adherence to current professional guidelines that recommend incision and drainage of suspected skin abscesses and encourages clinicians to take a careful history of present illness which may aid in identification of subsequent cases of marine snails, or other living organisms, residing in skin abscesses,” he wrote.

Khait said the boy, whose arm fully recovered, took the snail home as a pet. However, he said the boy’s family reported the animal died after living only about a day outside of its former abscess home.

“Every clinic encounter is unique, this one was extra so,” Khait wrote on Facebook.