A baby in the womb
Representational picture showing a CT scan of an unborn foetusiStock

In a rare medical case, a dead foetus was found inside a four-year-old boy's abdomen in a village called Kharikabandh in Midnapore district situated in India's eastern state of West Bengal. The medical abnormality, known as "foetus in foetu" (baby within a baby), is rare occurring in just one in every 500,000 to 600,000 people.

Dr Shirshendu Giri, heading the team of doctors, who performed the surgery said: "The dead embryo which had hands, legs, nails and a partially formed head was removed from the child's body after a long operation. The boy is is alright now still under close observation."

Last week the child complained of severe stomach ache and was admitted to the hospital where doctors initially suspected he had a tumour. However, they were shocked to discover a developed dead foetus in his abdomen in the ultra-sonography and CT scan.

During the very early stages of a pregnancy, if a woman happens to carry twins whose bodies are joined together, there is a chance of one of the foetuses can enter the other through the umbilical cord. The enveloped twin becomes a parasite whose survival depends on the survival of its host. Although after birth it becomes an abdominal mass, it may pose clear threats to the life of the host twin.

A similar case came to light in the central Indian city of Nagpur in June 1999, when a man named Sanju Bhagat, who had carried his parasitic "twin" inside his body for 36 years, was operated on. In March 2006, doctors in Pakistan removed two foetuses from inside a two-month-old baby girl facing the same phenomenon.