Eel enters man’s penis in spa treatment, is surgically removed

One unusual spa treatment resulted in a painful mishap as an eel traveled up a Chinese man's penis. The treatment was thematically similar to so-called 'fish pedicures,' which use fish to eat away dead skin on the feet.
(Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times)

Yes, you read that right. A Chinese man had to have an eel surgically removed from his bladder after a mishap while undergoing an unusual spa treatment.

Zhang Nan, a 56-year-old resident of Hubei province, was bathing with live eels, in the hopes that the tiny, serpentine critters would nibble away layers of dead skin, revealing more youthful-looking skin below.

It’s similar to those unusual pedicures that have fish eat dead skin off people’s feet -- except that you’re fully submerged, and you’re probably naked, and there are eels all over you.


Anyway, Nan felt a sharp pain, realized a 6-inch eel had entered his penis and was wriggling up through his urethra. He tried to pull it out but its tiny body was too slippery to hold, and it disappeared up his penis and into his bladder, according to the story.

This, the writer points out, is not the first time such an incident has been described: A teenage boy had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a 0.79-inch fish that climbed into his urethra while he was holding it and urinating.

(Superfluous health advice of the day: Don’t hold live animals while you’re relieving yourself. No matter how good an idea it seems at the time.)

Freakish as this sort of accident sounds -- and it is, of course -- there’s actually a particular type of fish that has a reputation for bladder-diving. According to a Kansas State page on parasitology, there are some types of parasitic catfishes in the Amazon (mostly in the genus Vandellia, and commonly called candiru) that have been known to invade the human urethra, often while humans are urinating into a body of water.

For the record, though, most men out there should be more worried about bacteria and viruses entering the urethra than eels doing so. For some perspective, here’s a rundown from the Cleveland Clinic on some of other, more common conditions affecting the penis.

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