Health Blog

One Indian Man’s Shocking Discovery

Finding your long lost twin where you'd never expect to

September 10, 2006

Can you imagine having a person growing inside of you? I know you are probably thinking of Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but apparently, this really happens.

On August 23, ABC News reported a story about an farmer from Nagpur, India. Sanju Bhagat, 36, lived his whole life with a bulging stomach.

Villagers mocked him saying that it looked like he was pregnant. But it turns out that their teasing wasn’t so far from the truth.

Bhagat had a condition known as fetus in fetu. This happens early on in a pregnancy, when a twin grows within its sibling and survives, like a parasite, by connecting itself by an umbilical chord-like structure to the blood supply of the host. There have only been around 90 reported cases worldwide, and for some reason, males are twice as likely to suffer from it than females.

Fetus in Fetu happens very early in the development of an embryo, when it is just a ball of cells called a blastocyst. A blastocyst sometimes divides and grows into two fetuses, but in this rare condition they divide unevenly, and one cell mass gets stuck inside the other. Most of the time this condition is fatal to both twins, but on rare occasions one or both survive after delivery.

The condition is usually noticed after the parasitic twin grows so large that it causes discomfort to the host. In Bhagat’s case, he began having trouble breathing because the mass was pushing against his diaphragm, the muscle that controls breathing. In June of 1999, Bhagat was rushed to Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India for emergency surgery.

Doctors were sure that an enormous tumor was causing the discomfort–but they were horrified to find no tumor at all.

One unnamed doctor interviewed in the ABC News story described what she saw that day in the operating room:

“[The surgeon] just put his hand inside and he said there are a lot of bones inside,” she said. “First, one limb came out, then another limb came out. Then some part of genitalia, then some part of hair, some limbs, jaws, limbs, hair.”

The story reports that the fingernails of the body inside were quite long, suggesting that it had been alive for some time after Bhagat was born.

Upon recovery from the surgery, in which his twin was removed, Bhagat immediately felt better. But he says that villagers still tease him about it.

Here is a link to a case-study of two people with Fetus in Fetu, published in the March 2000 edition of Radiology. There are really interesting images that show how the twin grows inside the sibling.

Now I suspect I will start having nightmares about someone growing inside me…

About the Author

Andrew Klein

I hold a B.S. in Human Biology/Premed from Cornell University. After graduation, I spent three years working in a biochemistry lab that studied Alzheimer disease. I decided I didn’t want to go the medical or research routes, realizing I just enjoy science. So, I’m writing about it!

Discussion

14 Comments

ToddG says:

This completely grossed me out. Coincidentally(?) this exact pathology was on that TV show “House” last night. Or something very similar; I only caught like 10 minutes randomly but it was also about a twin that formed during conception but did not completely develop. I think it was also an episode in the HBO series “Tales from the Crypt” years ago.

Indeed, the stuff nightmares are made of.

Jackie says:

In a word: ew.

This is why I never took biology or wanted to be a doctor.

Jackie says:

Oh, yeah – you’ve been ElementListed.

RockMonkey says:

i’m sooo glad i chose to read this while eating lunch.

zabi says:

I told my friends but they told me that i am crazy.

sh3ng says:

i’ve been looking for pictures of the fetus removed..where can i find one??really, really want to see it..

will says:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

will says:

you actually see a little hand being held by one of the nurses and it’s finernails are a bit long.

doug says:

i heard about a lady who thought she was pregnant for most of her life. she had an operation (for posible tumor) and they found it was the calcified body of her baby twin sister.

john says:

did the twin brother survive? are they living together?

Martin says:

Wow! This is exactly why i’m going to medical school! So interesting and weird.

Man inside a man says:

ORSUM, OMG I HAVE A CRIMP ABOUT THIS AND EVERYTHINNG
DANKALANKALANK.
ALSO THE DOCUMENTARY IS FULFILLING BEYOND BELIEFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
heavenly.

Aderemi abiodun says:

I’m really astonished about this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe

The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for regular updates.