A man’s seizure turned out to be caused by dead tapeworms in his brain

A close-up of the scolex or head of a fully mature swine tapeworm.  Interestingly, cysticercosis is what happens when the tapeworms do not get the chance to grow up.

A close-up of the scolex or head of a fully mature swine tapeworm. Interestingly, cysticercosis is what happens when the tapeworms do not get the chance to grow up.
Picture: Roberto J. Galindo / Wikimedia Commons

Coming down with seizures would be a scary experience no matter what, bout for an unhappy man, this experience was amplified by the discovery that dead tapeworm cysts that had been stuck in his brain for decades were the cause. Fortunately, his seizures were successfully treated, and the man seems to have recovered over the years ago.

Doctors in Massachusetts described that patientens case in a paper out last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to the report, which included his wife’s testimony, the 38-year-old man had fallen out of his bed at 6 p.m.m. He then began to shake and speak volapyk. When police and emergency medical services arrived, he was “combative and disoriented” and initially refused to go to the hospital in an ambulance. On the way to the emergency room, he experienced a two-minute seizure and received a sedative commonly used for seizures.

The man had no history of underlying health problems, and, according to his family, he had been just fine the day before. However, as doctors were able to perform CT and MRI scans of his brain, the probable culprit was his illness. were found: calcified and elongatedsince-dead larva tapeworm cysts. The doctors then concluded that he had a relatively rare form of attack from the tapeworm (Taenia solium), known as neurocysticercosis.

A swineworm attack can broad manifest You two ways. If we eat tapeworms found in pork or other poorly cooked meat that has matured slightly into cysts, these cysts will migrate to our intestines and flourish into full-blown adult tapeworms—uncomfortably long, weight lossinducing parasites. These worms will produce eggs that get pooped out and potentially find back to other animals like pigs so the cycle can start over.

But if another human being or even the same infected human being then these eggs ingest when the new generation of worms a dead end and can only mature into their cyst life form. Unfortunately, the nightmare does not end there, for these cysts can still wreak havoc wherever they end up. When they are stuck in brain, they can cause pressure and trigger inflammation leading to all sorts of neurological symptoms, including seizures and even death. But it can take years or decades after the attack, before symptoms appear, often only after the worm cysts die (adult tapeworms can live up to 30 years in a host; cysts have a shorter lifespan of about five years). Sometimes the cysts and the problems they cause can be confused for a brain tumor.

Locally acquired tapeworm infestations are rare in USA but remains very common in developing countries. And doctors’ best guess is that their patient first hosted these worms for at least 20 years ago in his home country of Guatemala before migrating to the United States

After treatment with anti-seizure medication and steroids, the man’s condition (including swelling around the lesions of his brain) improved enough that he was discharged from the hospital on day five. Although cysts can sometimes be removed surgically or treated with antiparasitic if they are still alive, this is often not possible or necessary, and patients who have had seizures will instead be given long-term medication to manage or prevent them in the future, as was the case here. Thankfully follow-up visit three years later have found out that the man has not had any episodes of seizures since and that he is still in good health.

While neurocysticercosis is relatively rare here, it is one of the leading causes of seizures that appear in adulthood worldwide. Efriend in the United States, about 1,000 people are hospitalized as a result each year. Cysticercosis is generally considered an overlooked tropical disease, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently “Little is being done to monitor, prevent or identify and treat neurocysticercosis.”


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