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Iguana bites preschooler, steals her cake, and leaves her with rare infection

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A California girl was left with a rare bacterial infection after an iguana in Costa Rica bit her and stole her cake, CNN reported.

"Our daughter ... is still recovering from the surgery ... the whole healing process has taken more strength than the bite itself," the Mars family told the outlet in a statement.

"Lena is the bravest child we can imagine, and she is handling the situation pretty well. ... She will probably never forget the experience, but we hope that someday we can all laugh about what happened."

Then 3-year-old Lena Mars and her parents, Julian and Luisa, were visiting a beach in Costa Rica in March 2022 when they stopped for a snack break by the water.

As little Lena was enjoying some cake, an iguana ran up and bit her on the finger. The girl lost her grip on the morsel, and the sweets-snatching reptile skittered off with it.

Though the bite appeared superficial, her parents took her to a local medical facility just to be sure. The clinic disinfected the bite and sent the family on their way with a round of amoxicillin, an antibiotic, the Guardian reported.

Though the wound initially seemed to clear up, five months later, a coin-sized lump appeared on the back of the tot's hand. The lump, which was not painful at first, grew larger and turned colors, the outlet reported.

Doctors first thought the lump to be a ganglion cyst and advised parents to keep a watch on it. A later consult with an orthopedist led to a biopsy and then surgery to remove a two-centimeter mass.

Lab results on the pus-filled mass showed little Lena had contracted a rare infection of Mycobacterium marinum.

"Typically, with these infections, because they take a very long time to grow and they’re a little bit more fastidious, you need to treat them for a longer period of time, sometimes several months," said Dr. Jordan Mah.

Mah is a Stanford-trained microbiology expert authoring a scientific presentation on Mars' case to be delivered at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases later this month.

Mah told CNN he believes this is the first time a human has gotten this sort of infection from an iguana bite.

Mah also says the youngster is improving.

"I wouldn't say 100%, but she's doing a lot better than she was initially."

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