An Australian neurosurgeon has discovered a live worm inside a woman’s brain during surgery.
This is the first known case of this specific parasite in a human, according to the latest Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.
The 64-year-old woman from NSW repeatedly sought treatment after noticing symptoms including forgetfulness, depression, abdominal pain, and fever beginning in early 2021.
Doctors decided to operate in June 2022 after a brain scan picked up an abnormality.
During the procedure, surgeons discovered a live 8cm roundworm lodged in her brain.
The worm, Ophidascaris robertsi, is a type of parasite usually found in pythons, who eat and shed roundworm eggs.
What is a parasite?
Parasites are organisms that live on or in the body of other living things.
A parasite will typically use the host to survive at the host’s expense.
In humans, this can cause sickness ranging from mild illness to severe disease.
How did the live worm enter the brain?
Doctors say it’s likely the woman unknowingly consumed the parasite via snake faeces on Warrigal greens, a type of native grass she found near her home.
Her doctors say it’s likely that a local carpet python shed the parasite via its faeces into the grass.
The patient has now recovered from last year’s surgery. Doctors are regularly monitoring her for ongoing symptoms.
Doctors also gave the patient medication after the surgery in case more parasite eggs were living elsewhere in her body.