Mermaid syndrome is a lethal congenital malformation in which the legs of a newborn are fused together into a single limb. The lower extremities of an affected person appear like mermaid’s tail thus the name of the disease. Also, in this syndrome the kidneys, bladder, genitals and colon may be either absent or abnormally developed. The stomach and lungs can be affected too. This condition is very rare with an incidence of approximately 1 in 70,000 births. Mermaid syndrome, also known as sirenomelia, in most cases causes death in an infant usually few days after its birth. In fact, the disease is most often seen as stillbirth and there are only around 300 live births reported till this day.
Mermaid syndrome can be treated surgically bur very rarely affected infants survive and there are only few known survivors of the syndrome. In the past, mermaid syndrome was mistaken for caudal regression syndrome, also a rare congenital defect characterized by the abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. There are different levels of severity of mermaid syndrome. Mild mermaid syndrome is featured by fused lower extremities into a single limb but only to the extent of the skin. The feet are also present and joined at the ankles. This form of the disorder can be successfully treated with a surgery. In severe mermaid syndrome, the legs are completely attached, the feet are absent and there are only two bones in the whole limb.
Causes of Mermaid SyndromeScientists still have not explained what causes mermaid syndrome. However, several conditions are associated with the disorder. A possible cause could be any serious health condition during pregnancy that affects either mother or the fetus. Physical or mental stress during pregnancy may also play a role. According to some researchers, prolonged exposure to radiation could be the leading cause of the mermaid syndrome as it can result in genetic abnormalities in parents. Inherited genetic diseases as well as poor prenatal care by the expecting mother may also contribute to the development of a mermaid syndrome.
Treatment for Mermaid Syndrome
Mermaid syndrome can be treated only surgically. However, surgical treatment is generally ineffective in case of severe mermaid syndrome. This is because, apart from being joined, the lower extremities also share important structures and blood vessels. Children with severe form of the syndrome generally cannot survive an operation. In fact, there have not been recorded cases involving babies with severe mermaid syndrome who survived the surgery. There are two notable cases of the syndrome that survived beyond the childhood and are still alive today. Tiffany Yorks is the oldest survivor of the syndrome, who had undergone multiple successful surgeries. Milagros Cerron is another survivor with successfully separated legs.