VA study shows parasite from Vietnam may be killing veterans

Focus On Our Forces

A small government study of blood samples from Vietnam War veterans has found that some may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.

Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist at Seoul National University in South Korea who carried out the tests, says that of 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies. He called the result "surprising."