A 25-year-old barista from Australia had complained of splitting headaches for the last seven years and had previously been prescribed migraine medication.
However, when the woman went to get checked, the doctors were surprised to find tapeworm larvae living in her brain, which explains the migraines she had for years.
Tapeworm larvae in the brain
According to the woman, she experiences severe headaches three times a month. When her last headache continued for more than a week, she knew that she need to have it checked by medical experts.
The barista also started to suffer from blurred vision and aches, and experts sent her for an MRI scan on the brain, which revealed a suspected tumor.
CNN reported that when surgeons operated to remove the tumor they discovered that it was actually a cyst full of tapeworm larvae. Tapeworms usually live in a person's intestines and occur when a person eats undercooked pork or comes into contact with tapeworm eggs.
The barista's case was reported in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. It was published on September 21, and shocking images were attached to show how much space the larvae took up in her brain.
According to the woman, she had never traveled abroad, and experts said that this was the first native case of neurocysticercosis or NCC in Australia. Neurocysticercosis can cause neurological conditions when larval cysts form in the brain.
The woman was believed to have accidentally ingested tapeworm eggs released from a carrier. She made a full recovery and needed no further treatment.
The World Health Organization or WHO states that tapeworm infection of the central nervous system is a leading cause of epilepsy worldwide.
WHO also states that the infection can be prevented and that causes include consuming undercooked food, particularly pork, or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs, or through poor hygiene practices.
The study states that the disease is endemic in many parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where animal husbandry practices are common such that pigs reared for human consumption ingest feces from humans infected with T. solium.
The study then concludes that neurocysticercosis is rarely acquired in economically affluent regions, including North America, Central Europe, Japan, and Australasia, and in countries where pork consumption is discouraged by social practices or religious practices.
In these countries, NCC is usually diagnosed in immigrants or returning travelers who have spent time in endemic regions.
The unusual features of the clinical presentation and epidemiology are highlighted to raise physicians; awareness that attention needs to be paid to the risk of autochthonous infection occurring in non-endemic countries.
In 2019, an 18-year-old teenager from India died after he had a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors scanned his brain, they found a grim image. His brain was dotted with parasitic cysts, the result of a severe and ultimately fatal tapeworm infection.
According to the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the boy had tonic-clonic seizures, in which a person loses consciousness and experiences violent muscle contractions. He also appeared confused and had swelling over his right eye.
WHO stated that preventing infections with T. solium will require a wide range of public health interventions, that includes personal hygiene, improving sanitation and food safety.