A Department of Veterans Affairs study revealed that some Vietnam veterans may have been infected by a river parasite called a liver fluke that is rarely found outside Asia.
Between April and June, the VA conducted a small study to examine whether liver flukes could be connected to a rare and deadly bile duct cancer. Five out of 50 Vietnam veterans in the study tested positive for exposure to the parasite.
Liver flukes can enter humans by drinking contaminated water or eating undercooked fish, and they can survive undetected in the body for decades. If the parasite is left untreated, it can cause liver cancer. Weight loss and jaundice tend to surface in the last stages of the disease.
The VA has received 240 benefit claims linked to bile-duct cancer and other liver fluke-related illnesses since 2013. It has rejected over 76 percent of the disability claims. As a result, lawmakers are calling on the VA to examine the links between liver fluke infection and bile-duct cancer.