A toddler whose stomach was so bloated she could not eat or drink was found to be carrying her unborn twin.
Doctors were astonished to find the 7lb 11oz (3.5kg) mass of bone, flesh and hair inside the girl’s abdomen.
The parasite had been feeding off Nisha, after forming an umbilical cord-like structure that leached its twin’s blood supply.
She was finally diagnosed with ‘foetus in fetu’, a rare condition with only 200 cases ever reported worldwide.
Nisha had been struggling to eat or drink anything and was constantly crying as a result of the parasite growing in her abdomen
Surgeons operated for two hours (left) to remove the mass of bone, flesh and hair (right) which had been leaching off her blood supply since before she was born
The shocking discovery was uncovered after her parents Raju and Sumathi, suspected a tumour and rushed her to hospital.
They said the 15-month old had been crying for weeks and could not eat or drink anything.
She was taken to Sri Ganapathy Krishna Hospital, a private health centre in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Doctors initially thought she had a huge cyst and were astonished to find the growth in her stomach.
The doctors then immediately carried out surgery to remove it.
Paediatric Surgeon Dr Vijayagiri, who performed the operation, said: ‘I first believed she had a cyst or tumour till the ultrasound and scan showed that there were bony areas, calcified region and a teratoma-like structure (a tumour containing tissues and organs).
Nisha’s mother, Sumathi, had not been able to go for scans during her pregnancy. She noticed her daughter’s stomach was enlarged from birth and suspected a tumour
Doctors were astonished when scans revealed the ‘foetus in fetu’ in her stomach
‘That was when I suspected that it was a foetus-in-fetu and quickly looked up some literature.
‘It was only when I removed the structure, could I confirm that it was definitely a foetus.
The surgery, which lasted for two hours, was further complicated as Nisha’s left kidney had completely attached to the tumour.
‘Other organs like the pancreas, a portion of the spleen and left side of the colon were attached to the foetus and the blood vessels were splayed around the structure,’ he said.
‘So we had to remove and detach the blood vessels and move the organs away from the foetus without injuring them.’
Nisha, who weighed 18lb (8kg) before the removal of the foetus, was born with a swollen stomach.
But her parents, who earn very little as labourers, were forced to ignore it until it grew abnormally large.
Following surgery this week, Nisha is said to be recovering well and is expected to be discharged within days.
Sumathi, 28, said: ‘She always had a slightly larger than normal stomach but we ignored it until she stared crying endlessly and began having issues breathing and having food.
‘We had never gone for scans before or during her birth.
‘I am thankful to doctors for removing the foetus and giving her a new life.’