(November 28, 2017) A parasite ingested decades ago may be killing veterans who served in Vietnam, according to a study commission by the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, despite the results of the research, the VA continues to deny most claims made by veterans showing symptoms of a rare bile cancer associated with the parasite, according to The Associated Press.
The study done at Seoul National University in South Korea, tested 50 blood samples collected by a VA facility in New York and found 20 percent of them positive or borderline positive for liver fluke antibodies.
“It was surprising,” said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who conducted the tests. All of those who tested positive have been notified.
The liver fluke can be ingested through raw or undercooked fish and is found in the rivers of Vietnam. The AP reported that pills can prevent problems if the parasite’s presence is detected early. But the parasite can live undetected for decades, eventually causing swelling and inflammation of the bile duct that can lead to cancer.
They are rarely found in America, but infect about 25 million people worldwide.
The AP reported on the parasite’s presence in Vietnam veterans last year, prompting the study. The wire service found then that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma had visited the VA in the past 15 years. Only about half submitted claims because there was no evidence of a link between the cancer and their military service.
Of those who filed claims, 80 percent were rejected by the VA. Sixty claims have been filed this year, but most have been denied even though a warning about the liver fluke parasite has been added to the government website.
“We are taking this seriously,” a VA spokesman told the AP. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made.”
A Vietnam veteran told the wire service that cholangiocarcinoma should be treated like health problems associated with the toxic defoliant Agent Orange—automatic approval.