While we don’t usually post about parasites that infect humans, we are posting about this, including a link, so that people can point to this story as proof that yes, people have parasitic ‘worms’ of all sorts infecting them. Medical editor Melissa Davey wrote an “article on a live worm that was found inside a woman’s brain“. The worm was a roundworm, one of Earth’s most simple creatures. There are many species of parasitic roundworms that can be contracted in various ways, but this particular discovery was a first. The species of roundworm they found inside the woman’s brain was a species normally found in pythons, not humans.
A neurosurgeon, Dr Bandi, was the one who pulled the three-inch worm from the brain of the woman, who had first been admitted to her local hospital 2021 after experiencing chronic diarrhea, stomach pains, fevers, night sweats, and coughing. A year later, forgetfulness and depression was added to the list of symptoms, after which she had an MRI scan which revealed that everything was not looking as it should, and she would need surgery: a surgery which revealed the roundworm. After the still-live worm was sent to a scientist who studied parasites, it was identified as Ophidascaris robertsi. But how would a roundworm that infects pythons end up in this woman? The answer is: accidental ingestion of the roundworm eggs. She lives by a lake that is populated by carpet pythons, and she tends to harvest different grasses in the area to cook with. If an infested carpet python were to excrete some of the roundworm eggs onto the grass which the woman later ingested, it is likely that she contracted the parasite this way.
What is fascinating about this case is that the roundworm survived inside a host that is unfamiliar to it. Some researchers investigating whether or not it is possible that the woman’s other medical conditions might have allowed the roundworm larvae to feed off her and mature in the first place. This discovery is also concerning, as it opens up more questions about other parasites we might be missing that could potentially take humans as hosts where before we thought it was not possible. Equally, the positive side of that is that now we are aware of this phenomenon, and maybe this will lead to more parasite-infested people getting the help they need. Additionally, the lesson here is to always thoroughly wash any plants you harvest yourself, especially if you will not be cooking them at boiling temperature and if you live in a more rural area.
In conclusion, the world of parasites seems to be even more complicated than we thought. It is an area that we, who are medical professionals, have to tread lightly in, so that nothing we say could be misconstrued as medical advice. But we think sharing this story is important, as a lot of medical issues caused by parasites are dismissed by medical professionals who do not specialize in the area, and this story serves as proof that people’s stories and issues with parasites are very much real.
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