We’ve discovered a new species of worm that can infect our brains

Here’s some extra material to clear up your nightmares: In a case report published this week, a team of scientists say they’ve discovered a new species of roundworm that infects our brains and usually preys on snake. The discovery was made when they removed a live worm from the head of an Australian woman during surgery. Fortunately, the woman’s parasitic infestation appears to have been successfully treated.

A paper details the grisly medical story published It was published Monday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. According to reports, the 64-year-old woman was first admitted to the hospital in early 2021 with symptoms of long-term abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as dry cough and night sweats. Initial examination found signs of pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) and lesions throughout the liver and spleen, but could not identify a clear culprit for his illness, such as a bacterial infection or cancer.

He was diagnosed with pneumonia related to a buildup of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, and was eventually released and given steroids. Although the treatment seemed to help a little, the woman was hospitalized again a month later. Tests showed that her body was still producing more eosinophils than normal, which could be life-threatening if not handled properly, but again, she couldn’t find any reason why this was happening at all.they were diagnosed hypereosinophilic syndrome And continue to take steroids.

A brain scan of the woman, and the worms found inside her lesion.Image: Hossain et al./Emerging Infectious Diseases

A brain scan of the woman, and the worms found inside her lesion.Image: Hossain et al./Emerging Infectious Diseases

The woman’s health temporarily improved and she even started to stop receiving treatment. But in early 2022, his depression started to worsen and he had trouble remembering things. An MRI showed damage to his brain. In June, her doctors decided to perform a biopsy (collecting a sample of tissue for examination), and that’s when they made a shocking discovery: Inside the lesion was literally a glowing nematode about three inches long..

Although rare, several worms are known to cause brain infections in humans. But the creature’s distinctive coloring clearly shows it.Scientists don’t think this is your typical brain worm.They quickly identified their specimen as a third instar larvae Rober’s snake roundwormis a parasitic roundworm found in carpet pythons, a species of snake found in Australia and adjacent areas. Genetic testing confirmed their suspicions, making it the first documented case of a human brain infection caused by this particular worm.

The woman reported that she had no direct exposure to carpet pythons, but did live in a lake area where carpet pythons are known. Her doctor also notes that she often collects plants around her home to use in her cooking. They speculate that she either ate the eggs directly from the vegetables or came into contact with them through contaminated hands or kitchen utensils used to prepare the food. Its initial progressive symptoms also indicated that the worms had spread to multiple organs, the authors said.Ironically Enough is enough, his subsequent steroid treatment may have allowed the infection to eventually reach his brain by suppressing his immune system.

These Worm infection They usually cause no noticeable symptoms and tend to go away on their own without treatment. The worms themselves may not mature into adults and eventually die.However Severe infections often require deworming medication to prevent live insects from causing further problems.

In this case, doctors found no further evidence of worms in the woman’s brain. But he was treated with deworming medication and less-strength steroids (killing the worms can trigger an exaggerated immune response) to eradicate the remaining invaders in his body. A few months after surgery and three months after tapering off the steroids, her eosinophil levels returned to normal. Unfortunately, the woman’s neuropsychiatric symptoms improved, but she was not fully recovered at this time.

Cerebrates of any kind are uncommon. But the incident reflects what can happen when humans come into contact with wild animals. As well as their parasites, the authors say. There are likely to be other as yet unknown species of roundworms that could call our brains “home,” they warn.

“Taken together, this case highlights the continuing risk of zoonotic disease as humans and animals interact closely,” they wrote. Roberts Nematodes are endemic to Australia and other countries Offida Scalis These species infect snakes elsewhere, suggesting that more human cases may be emerging globally. “

This content has been automatically translated from the source material. There may be minor differences due to the nuances of machine translation. For the original version, click here.

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