A 38-year-old man in Boston was hospitalized with unexplained seizures. It found that he had lived with a dead tapeworm in his brain for years, according to a new case report.
The man’s wife called the police after her husband fell out of bed and started shaking and “speaking gibberish” in the middle of the night. When help arrived, the man was “combative” and “disoriented” and refused to get into an ambulance, the report said.
When he got to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he had another unexplained seizure. It was not immediately clear what was causing the seizures as he had no history of them or any similar illness.
Doctors at the hospital gave the man medication to make his Seizures and carried out various tests. Brain scans showed swelling and three lesions in his brain – both typical of a parasitic infection known as neurocysticercosis which can cause seizures, headaches and sometimes death.
Humans become infected with the parasite by ingesting the eggs of pork tapeworms (Taenia solium) in undercooked or infected pork. These eggs can then hatch in the body, become larvae, and travel around the body, including to the brain, where they form cysts. An infected person can spread the tapeworm if they do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet; If that person contaminates food or surfaces with their hands, others could catch the parasitic infection, nach den Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Pork tapeworm infections are most common in rural areas of developing countries, where pigs roam free and eat human feces. according to CDC. But about 1,000 people are hospitalized for neurocysticercosis every year in the United States, most of whom have been in other countries where these tapeworms are more common.
Around 20 years ago, the patient in the case report moved to Boston from a rural area of Guatemala where the infection is widespread, according to the report.
“This gentleman was a little atypical, but not surprisingly rare, as his parasites were dead and calcified and there was no living parasite in his brain for a decade or two,” said study co-author Dr. Edward Ryan, the director of Global Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the Washington Post. “The infection was long gone, but part of his brain was scarred – and that scarred area led to the seizures.”
The parasites usually die in the body within five to 10 years, but can continue to cause inflammation that leads to headaches, pain, and seizures, according to the Post.
Doctors treated the man with anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory drugs and, according to the study, he was discharged from the hospital five days later. Doctors continued to follow up the patient for the next three years, and the largest lesion in his brain has receded, according to the Post. “He seems to be fine,” Ryan told the Post. “The good news is that he is still fine and seizure-free.”
The results were published on November 11th in. released Das New England Journal of Medicine.
Originally published on Live Science.