Wriggling parasitic worm 8 cm long removed from woman’s brain

Parasitic worm discovered in woman's brain which she picked up from grass in New South Wales at a place where there were carpet pythons the usual host of this parasite.
Parasitic worm discovered in woman’s brain which she picked up from grass in New South Wales at a place where there were carpet pythons the usual host of this parasite. Image: The Guardian.

NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA: This is an example of zoonosis which is a health problem of increasing concern for humans. A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans. In this instance the disease takes the form of an endoparasite that usually resides in pythons but was transferred to a woman who habitually visited a lake area near her home to collect native grasses where carpet pythons lived. She must have picked up the worm from the grasses either by touching them or eating them.

The patient was 64 at the time and suffered a range of ill-health symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • constant dry cough
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • forgetfulness
  • depression

They performed an MRI scan of her brain and saw abnormalities requiring surgery. On discovering the 8 cm worm in her brain the surgeon at Canberra Hospital, Dr Hari Priya Bandi, exclaimed to colleagues: “Oh my God you wouldn’t believe what I just found in this lady’s brain.”

The incident is regarded as unique being the first of its kind. But it does bring home the increase in transference of disease from animals to humans due to the closer proximity of humans to animals in various settings as a result of human population growth and a subsequent increase in wild animal abuses and exploitation. The Covid pandemic is the best example.

The worm’s species was identified immediately by a specialist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation as Ophidascaris robertsi.

Dr Sanjay Senanayake, a specialist in infectious diseases said that, “There have been about 30 new infections in the world in the last 30 years. Of the emerging infections globally, about 75 per cent are zoonotic [from animal to human].

A lot of people believe that there will be another pandemic similar to Covid because of humankind’s abuse of wildlife. China is the most proficient perpetrator of wild animal abuse after perhaps Africa where a lot of wild animals are killed for bushmeat.

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Post Category: Parasites