Doctors removed a live eight-centimeter worm from the brain of a 64-year-old Australian woman, in the world’s first case of a new type of parasitic infection in humans.
Roundworm Ovidascaris Robertsi – was still “alive and writhing” when it was surgically removed from a patient’s brain, according to a new study published in the journal. Emerging infectious diseases.
The researchers, including those from the Australian National University (ANU), suspected that the worm larvae were also present in other organs in the woman’s body, including the lungs and liver.
“This is the first-ever human case of ovidascaris to be described in the world,” study co-author Sanjaya Senanayake, a leading expert in infectious diseases at the Australian National University, said in a statement.
The new discovery, according to experts, is also the first case of a fully grown Ophidascaris worm living in the brain of any mammal, “human or otherwise”.
This worm is usually common in carpet snakes.
Their larvae are usually found in small mammals and marsupials, which are then eaten by the snake, allowing the life cycle to complete itself in the snake.
The researchers said the worm usually lives in the snake’s esophagus and stomach and sheds its eggs in the host’s feces.
Humans will be considered accidental hosts of Ovidascaris Robertsi They said larvae.
In the latter case, the woman from southeastern New South Wales in Australia likely contracted roundworm after collecting a type of local grass, called Warrigal Greens, by a lake near where she lives.
This is where the snake is likely to get rid of the parasite through its feces.
Roundworms are known to be resilient and able to thrive in a wide variety of environments.
It is known to cause stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss, fever, and fatigue in humans.
In the new case study, the researchers said the woman used the green waregal for cooking, and it is possible that she contracted the parasite from touching local grass or after eating the greens.
Doctors said the woman’s symptoms first began in January 2021. She initially developed abdominal pain and diarrhea, “followed by fever, cough and shortness of breath.”
The 64-year-old man was first admitted to a local hospital in late January 2021 after suffering abdominal pain and diarrhea for three weeks, followed by a persistent dry cough, fever and night sweats.
They said these symptoms are likely due to the migration of roundworm larvae from the intestines to other organs such as the liver and lungs.
When respiratory samples and lung biopsy were performed, no parasites were identified in these tissue samples.
“At the time, trying to identify microscopic larvae, which had not previously been identified as causing human infection, was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” said Karina Kennedy, another author of the study from Canberra Hospital.
By 2022, the woman begins to experience subtle changes in her memory and thought processing.
By this time, doctors said the patient was forgetful and depressed, prompting an MRI scan that showed atypical tissue damage within the right frontal lobe of the brain.
It was then that a neurosurgeon at Canberra Hospital discovered the unexpected eight centimeter long roundworm, which was confirmed by experts in parasitology and molecular studies.
The researchers warned that this case highlights the risk of diseases and infections being transmitted from animals to humans in a world where habitats increasingly overlap with each other.
“There have been about 30 new infections in the world in the last 30 years. Of the emerging infections globally, about 75% are zoonotic diseases, which means that there has been a transition from the animal world to the human world. Dr. Senanayake said: “ This includes coronaviruses.”
“People who farm or forage should wash their hands after gardening and touching forage produce,” said Dr. Kennedy.
“Any food used for salads or cooking should also be washed thoroughly, and kitchen surfaces and cutting boards wiped clean after use.”