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World-first discovery: Live parasitic worm found in Australian woman's brain

In 2022, she was referred to a Canberra hospital for surgery after an MRI scan revealed abnormalities in her brain. During the surgery, doctors found an 8-centimeter-long, live parasitic roundworm in her brain.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar Canberra Published on: August 29, 2023 9:46 IST
parasitic worm
Image Source : PIXABAY A representational picture of human brain.

A live parasitic worm was found in the brain of an Australian woman in a world-first discovery. A 64-year-old woman, who has not been named, was suffering from headaches and seizures when she was taken to the hospital, as reported by the news agency The Guardian. The woman, who has not been identified, was first admitted to the hospital in late January 2021 with abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and night sweats. Her symptoms progressed over the next year, and she also began to experience memory loss and depression.

In 2022, she was referred to a Canberra hospital for surgery after an MRI scan revealed abnormalities in her brain. During the surgery, doctors found an 8-centimeter-long, live parasitic roundworm in her brain.

"But the neurosurgeon certainly didn't go in there thinking they would find a wriggling worm," Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake, a Canberra hospital infectious diseases physician, told The Guardian.

"Neurosurgeons regularly deal with infections in the brain, but this was a once-in-a-career finding. No one was expecting to find that," he added.

The woman underwent surgery to remove the worm, and she is now recovering. This is the first time that a live parasitic worm has been found in the brain of a human. The discovery is a reminder of the importance of taking precautions to avoid infection with parasites.

The worm was identified as a third-stage larva of the Ophidascaris robertsi nematode species. This nematode is typically found in the gastrointestinal systems of carpet pythons, which are native to Australia.

The worm is a type of nematode called Spirometra erinaceieuropaei. It is commonly found in rodents and other animals, but it can sometimes infect humans. The worm is typically transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water or food.

The researchers believe that the woman may have contracted the parasite by coming into contact with contaminated grass or soil. The parasite could have then entered her body through her mouth or nose.

The woman underwent surgery to remove the worm, and she is now recovering well. This is the first known case of a human being infected with Ophidascaris robertsi in the brain.

The researchers say that this case highlights the importance of being aware of the risks of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. They also urge people to take precautions to avoid contact with contaminated soil or grass.

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