In a horrific find, a tapeworm in the brain of a man has been confirmed to be the cause of him dealing with intense pain and migraines for the past several years. The 50 year-old victim, who finally went in to seek official help for the problem, was found to have had the invasive 1 cm long creature burrowing through his brain material — almost from one side of his head to the other. Although medical experts do not know the specific cause behind how the parasite first infected him, The Guardian News notes this Saturday, November 22, 2014, that tainted meat or a frog poultice used over the eyes can lead to this frightening health issue.
They are usually found in the stomach, but a 1 cm tapeworm nestled its way into a man’s brain and burrowed there for four years in total. Having been suffering chronic pain for years now, a UK man learned that a tapeworm in brain scare was behind all his difficulties. Doctors confirmed that a series of strange smells he continued to experience, as well as his ongoing headaches, were a direct result of a very rare tapeworm — a type of parasite — that had been living in his brain for over 48 months.
Fortunately, the presence of such a parasite is not a common occurrence. This particular medical incident is said to be the very first case of this magnitude to have happened in Great Britain. The tapeworm, described to be very small but of a normative ribbon shape, somehow managed to wriggle its way from one section of his brain to another. A raw frog poultice placed over the eyes is one known way to catch this rare parasite, but doctors have not confirmed this was the cause behind his dangerous infection.
They may be small, but parasites can cause some serious pain, though many times their hosts are not aware of them. The brain-infesting worm itself has only been the culprit behind an estimated several hundred cases in the entire world, at least until specific accounts began to be documented back in 1953. It is the first in Great Britain, and only the third case to be confirmed in all of Europe. Doctors were said to be utterly perplexed when brain scans yielded ring-like patterns in the 50-year-old’s gray matter tissue, of roughly 5 centimeters in length.
After numerous tests that all came back negative, when the man said he did not think he could handle the pain of his headaches any longer, surgeons managed to find the cause of his duress — a 1 cm tapeworm. The miniscule parasite was discovered during a biopsy in a Cambridge hospital procedure, and has since been identified as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, a particularly uncommon species.
In a related report this week, The Telegraph also provides details on a related tapeworm in brain incident — this time, a teacher opens up on the pain and fear he experienced realizing that a parasitic creature had entered his body and absorbing nutrients through his brain matter. He has since had the parasite removed and feels like a new man — “purged” — since the result.
Scientists are still looking into this 1cm worm. The cause of the 50-year-old’s suffering, the Spirometra species parasite is most commonly found in China. Even there, it is rare among humans, normally found infecting amphibians, fish, and small crustaceans. The elusive tapeworm is also known to find a home in the brain tissue and even stomachs of household pets, including dogs and cats. The 50-year-old man in question was of Chinese heritage, but had been been living quietly in his home in East Anglia for years. He is suspected to have caught the parasite during a trip to China.
On top of the possibility of foul meat and traditional frog poultices for the eyes, even tainted water is speculated to have been a cause behind the parasite making its way through the man’s body to his head. Without a mouth, this tapeworm in the brain uses its absorbent body to attract nutrients and sustain itself. Scientists are using the particular specimen they have found in the 50-year-old man to study more closely and hopefully discover secrets behind its DNA, infection sites, and infiltration process. Concludes one doctor:
“This worm is quite mysterious and we don’t know everything about what species it can infect or how. Humans are a rare and accidental host. for this particular worm. It remains as a larva throughout the infection. We know from the genome that the worm has fatty acid binding proteins that might help it scavenge fatty acids and energy from its environment, which may be one the mechanisms for how it gets its food.”