The data is in: being double vaccinated reduces your risk of catching COVID-19 by up to 60 percent and your risk of dying by more than 85 percent. And so naturally tens of thousands of people have done the sensible thing and ... totally rejected the vaccine in favor of scarfing down obscene quantities of foul-tasting goo designed to kill parasitic worms inside horses.
Thousands of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have gone to extreme lengths in recent months to get hold of ivermectin, a medication for diseases caused by parasites in horses. The idea is that this will cure or prevent COVID-19, an illness that is notably not caused by a parasite and affects horses very differently to humans.
It's got so bad that the FDA has had to issue a reminder that people are not horses. In fact, now the universe itself seems to have weighed in, with some of the conspiracists who managed to choke down the disgusting paste developing a nasty case of pooping themselves in public. Ignoring even this hint that maybe their chosen curative might not be the wonder drug they’d been told, ivermectin true believers have continued dosing themselves with dangerous levels of horse de-wormer – and while their COVID-19 is probably no better, some have noticed another side effect: the appearance of “rope worms”.
“Might be a stupid question but has anyone pooped out worms from taking ivermectin?” one woman asked a Facebook group devoted to the horse medicine. “[I’m] just curious.”
“Yes,” replied a fellow equine de-wormer aficionado. “[I’ve] been expelling rope worms with coffee enemas for a while now [but] it’s different with [ivermectin] … I got this tummy rumbling like I had to go with diarrhea … so I go to the pot and out comes a bile dump with full rope worms heads and all!”
They aren’t the only ones. So what are these “rope worms” that so many people are apparently infested with? How are they spread? And really, what are the chances that all these people actually needed de-worming?
Well, as you may have guessed from the title and general tone of the article so far, those … aren’t worms.
“Rope worms”, or to use the scientific term, “bits of intestinal lining that have been sloughed off because you’re ingesting poison and your body can’t handle it”, have a rich history in pseudo (which is to say, anti) scientific circles. The idea dates back to 2009, coincidentally not long after one Jim Humble started marketing what he called his “Miracle Mineral Solution”, or MMS. This, he said, could cure cancer, AIDS, malaria, autism – pretty much anything short of death itself. So why haven’t you heard of this miracle cure? Well, you probably have – but under a different name. You probably know it as industrial bleach.
So people started drinking bleach. They started squirting bleach up their butts. More upsettingly, they started forcing bleach into their kids, prompting more than one report to child protective services. And the result of all this bleach – apart from the vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, liver failure, and death – was the appearance of long, rope-like, and never-before-seen organisms in the toilet bowl.
These, people decided, must be intestinal worms, which were (somehow) responsible for (usually) their kids’ autism (warning: that link is extremely upsetting). The worst part was that this was taken as proof that the bleach cure was working – in fact, it was causing irreparable damage to the organs of the “patients”.
“It can lead to kidney damage and kidney failure,” medical toxicologist Dr. Daniel Brooks told NBC. The idea that MMS could treat autism was “ludicrous … This stuff does nothing other than introduce potential risk,” he said.
As you’ve probably guessed, the “rope worms” that people have reported after taking ivermectin are caused by the same thing: their intestines being attacked by a massive dose of, essentially, poison. Veterinary-grade ivermectin – there is a version made for humans, but it comes in much lower doses – is causing their guts to shed its protective mucusy lining. To the untrained eye, these strands of human tissue may look like worms, but in fact they’re a sign that something is terribly wrong.
"[If] people are taking product designed for topical application or products designed for cows, horses, or other things then there's no telling what that might look like on the back end, so to speak," pathologist Dr Wesley Long told Business Insider.
With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, we are living in a golden age of medical misinformation (and yes of course MMS has been touted as a COVID-19 cure). Whether that’s sharing the details of conspiratorial doctors willing to issue dangerous prescriptions over the internet, or insisting that the mucus lining of your intestines is actually a parasitic worm unknown to conventional medicine, the results are the same: more sickness, and potentially even death.
The biggest irony of all is perhaps that, in small doses, ivermectin really is used to treat people with diseases caused by intestinal worms. There’s really only one small detail the conspiracy theorists have got wrong: the worms have to actually exist if you want the medicine to work.