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Mouth Diseases

Tongue roach!

04/25/2001

Question:

We are a library staff that are discussing a item from the internet that purports to be a true story. According to this account a women was licking stamps during what appears to be a mass mailing at her work place. During this activity she accidentally cut her tongue on the edge of the envelope flap. At first this was only uncomfortable, but after a few days the tongue became swollen and enflamed. As the condition became worse, she went to her doctor, who evidently attempted to lance, or open and drain the area, only to discover a partly grown, or developed cockroach. The point being that microscopic, or small eggs where deposited on the envelope, entered the tongue by way of the paper cut, and then used the tongue as a host to develop.

Is this an "urban legend", or scientifically possible.

Answer:

This undoubtedly falls into the `urban legend` category. Cockroaches, when initially hatched, are extremely small and require multiple moltings of their exoskeleton to achieve a size that would be readily visible to the naked eye. In addition, cockroaches are air-breathing organisms that would not be able to survive within the body tissues for more than a few minutes.

There have been sporadic reports in the dental and medical literature of other parasites infesting the oral tissues (fly larvae; tapeworm larvae; etc.), but there are no reports of oral cockroach infestation.

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Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University