When a 64-year-old Australian woman was sent to the hospital for brain surgery, neurosurgeon Dr. Hari Priya Pandi didn’t expect to pull out an 8-centimeter (3-inch) long parasitic roundworm.
“I found worms using my not-so-good gardening skills … I find them scary, it’s not something I can deal with,” Bondy told CNN about the world’s first discovery of a living worm inside a human brain. .
The discovery has unleashed a frantic scramble to identify exactly what the parasite is, Canberra Hospital infectious disease specialist Sanjaya Senanayake told CNN.
A colleague in a hospital laboratory managed to reach an animal parasitologist at a government scientific research institute within 20 minutes – and found their unexpected answer.
“We were able to send him a live motile worm and he could see it and identify it immediately,” Senanayake said.
Molecular tests confirmed it Opitascaris Robertsii, A According to a press release from the Australian National University and Canberra Hospital, roundworms are commonly found in pythons.
“To our knowledge, this is the first case involving the brain of a human or any other mammalian species,” said Senanayake, a professor at the Australian National University.
Researchers say the patient lived near a lake area inhabited by carpet pythons in southeastern New South Wales. Although she had no direct contact with the reptile, she may have caught the roundworm after feeding on varicella greens, a native leafy vegetable, that she cooked and ate.
Doctors and scientists involved in her case speculated that a carpet python may have spread the parasite through its feces to the greens, which the patient touched and cross-contaminated food or other cooking utensils.
The woman was initially admitted to a local hospital in late January 2021 after suffering from three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhoea, followed by persistent dry cough, fever and night sweats.
After several months, her symptoms worsened with forgetfulness and depression, and she was sent to a hospital in the Australian capital, where an MRI scan revealed an abnormality in the right frontal lobe of her brain.
What usually happens is that carpet pythons in Australia carry it Opitascaris Robertsii and release parasite eggs theirs Spread by faeces, small mammals and marsupials eating plants. At some point, pythons eat the same infected animal, and the parasite then lives inside the snake, completing the cycle.
In this case, Senanayake said, the patient may be an accidental host of the worm. The parasite is highly invasive and its larvae, or young, are suspected to have lodged in other organs of the female body, including the lungs and liver.
The case highlights the increasing risk of diseases and epidemics being transmitted from animals to humans, especially as people intrude deeper into animal habitats.
“There are more opportunities for humans, domestic animals and wild animals to interact with each other and the plants there. So this is another indicator that more new infections will be seen in the future,” Senanayake said.
About 30 new infections have been identified in the world in the last three decades, he said. About 75% of emerging infections are zoonotic, that is, from the animal world to the human world – including coronaviruses.
“This Opitascaris The infection does not spread between people, so it does not cause an epidemic like SARS, COVID-19 or Ebola. However, the snake and the parasites are found in other parts of the world, so other cases will be recognized in the coming years in other countries,” Senanayake said.
“The other message in this case is about foraging. Foragers should wash their hands after touching forage. Forage used for salad or cooking should also be thoroughly washed.”
This case in Australia is quite different from recent reports of tapeworm larvae found in the brain causing painful headaches.
That position is known NeurocysticercosisLarval cysts can cause neurological symptoms when they form in the brain.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people become infected with the parasite by ingesting eggs found in the feces of a person with intestinal tapeworm. More than 1,000 cases are reported each year in the United States alone.
Last year, a 25-year-old woman in Australia who suffered from headaches for over a week was diagnosed with tapeworm larvae in her brain, according to a study.
An MRI scan of her brain led doctors to believe her pain might be a tumor, but after surgery to remove the lesion, they discovered it was actually a cyst full of tapeworm larvae.