Born with a Tail

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Author: Nikki Jiang

Editors: Angela Lin and Peggy Yang

Artist: Kaitlyn Stanton

Did you know that there was such a thing as Mermaid syndrome? Well, Mermaid syndrome, also called sirenomelia, is a rare condition where a newborn’s legs are fused, resembling a mermaid tail. Continue reading to find out more about this syndrome!

Mermaid syndrome (sirenomelia) is a rare condition where a newborn’s legs are fused, resembling a mermaid tail. This syndrome affects internal organs and the spine, causing many other health issues and is often fatal at birth. As researchers and doctors learn more about this syndrome, more advancements will be made to increase the life expectancy of this syndrome but there is still very little we know about it.

The cause of mermaid syndrome is one of the great mysteries to researchers and doctors. Many suspects that gene mutation could be a cause but no specific causes were found so far. In a case report from 2018, the upper body of the baby shows up at completely normal on x-rays and there are no respiratory or cardiovascular diseases linked to sirenomelia. For all of the histories taken, the parents have not been exposed to any drugs or previous family illnesses. After taking a history of the pregnancy, no abnormalities were found, leaving researchers with a question mark. Genetically, some people may be more susceptible to their legs fusing at birth. Scientists do know that abnormalities in the circulatory system during early development have a causal relationship with the syndrome.

The lower body of a patient showed many abnormalities caused by fused legs. The baby had a singular large umbilical artery, a sign of mermaid syndrome. There was no presence of a urinary tract, pelvic bone, left kidney, genital organs, and the neonate was missing many bones in the lower body. The main leg bones were present, including both fibula, tibia, and femurs. A major issue for this baby was a lack of ability for stool excretion. Without a urinary tract and an abnormal bladder, secretion is near impossible. Ultimately this baby passed away 4 days after birth.

For now, there are few cures for mermaid syndrome. Surgery is usually not an option and has the potential for many complications, especially since many babies with mermaid syndrome are prematurely born. Most of the time life expectancies of babies are under 5 days. Under the rare cases of survival, the quality of life is debatable according to researchers. For now, there is a lack of proper prenatal diagnosis and a series of ethical issues come along with that. Many have proposed possible pregnancy termination if mermaid syndrome is detected early but for now, mermaid syndrome remains a mystery.

 

Citation:

MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Mermaid syndrome: Symptoms, causes, treatment, outlook, and

more. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mermaid-

syndrome.

Ramphul, K., Mejias, S. G., & Ramphul-Sicharam, Y. (2018, February 20). Mermaid Syndrome:

A Case Report in Mauritius. Cureus.

https://www.cureus.com/articles/11122-mermaid-syndrome-a-case-report-in-mauritius.

Taee, N., Tarhani, F., Goodarzi, M. F., Safdari, M., & Bajelan, A. (2018, October). Mermaid

Syndrome: A Case Report of a Rare Congenital Anomaly in Full-Term Neonate with Thumb

Deformity. AJP reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6235678/.

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