In a startling revelation doctors have said that the Thai fish dish called Koi pla, which is made of raw fish ground with spices and lime, can cause deadly liver cancer.
The raw fish in question that is used to make the dish is full of parasites and this could lead to deadly cholangiocarcinoma (CCG) bile duct cancer, which kills 20,000 Thais each year. It is said that Isaan, a large but poor region from northeast Thailand, that has been dining on koi pla for generations now has the highest reported of CCA in the world.
One of the major causes of CCA is a parasitic flatworm (or fluke) which is native to the Mekong region and found in many freshwater fish.
The World Health Organisation warns that the worms, once eaten, can embed undetected in the bile ducts for years, causing inflammation that can, over time, trigger the aggressive cancer.
Narong Khuntikeo, a liver surgeon witnessed both of his koi pla-loving parents both losing thier lives to CCG.
“It’s a very big health burden around here… it affects families, education and socioeconomic development,” said Narong, who is battling the scourge and raising awareness among his people.
“But nobody knows about this because they die quietly, like leaves falling from a tree,” added Narong, who only discovered the bad effects of koi pla after he got into medical school.
After seeing hundreds of hopeless late-stage cases on the operating table, Narong is now marshalling scientists, doctors and anthropologists to attack the “silent killer” at source.
Meanwhile, locals are in the sate of shock on learning the hard truth that their favourite dish passed down for generations poses health risk rather than a relish.
Narong and his team have developed urine tests to detect the presence of the parasite, which has infected up to 80 percent of some Isaan communities.
So, you may need to think twice about eating koi pla the next time you travel to Thailand.