On Tuesday, a neurosurgeon reported the discovery of a parasitic worm squirming within the brain of a 64-year-old Australian woman who had been experiencing an unexplained illness.
During a biopsy performed at Canberra Hospital in June 2022, Surgeon Hari Priya Bandi uncovered a 3-inch worm within the patient’s skull and skillfully removed the parasite using forceps.
“I just thought: ‘What is that? It doesn’t make any sense. But it’s alive and moving,’” Bandi told the Canberra Times newspaper. “It continued to move with vigor. We all felt a bit sick.”
The baby form of an Australian worm named Ophidascaris robertsi was discovered to be the cause. This worm usually lives in carpet pythons and was not known to affect humans before.
Bandi and Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases specialist from Canberra, wrote a paper about this medical case in the most recent version of the journal called Emerging Infectious Diseases.
For more than a year, the patient had been experiencing a range of symptoms.
One year before they found the creature in her brain, the patient had gone to the hospital near her home in southeastern New South Wales. She was feeling unwell with a stomach ache, diarrhea, a dry cough, and sweating at night.
She was later admitted to Canberra Hospital after suffering for three months with symptoms of forgetfulness and worsening depression.
When the pictures of her brain showed some differences, the doctors chose to do a brain biopsy. They thought the biopsy might tell them if she had cancer or a swollen area called an abscess.
The discovery of wriggling parasite surprised everyone in the operating room a lot, said Senanayake.
“The doctors had been trying to help this patient with an unknown sickness that they thought was related to her immune system, because they couldn’t find any parasite. But suddenly, a large mass showed up in the front of her brain,” explained the infectious diseases doctor, as reported by The Associated Press.
The patient felt thankful to find out what was making her feel unwell. After removing the worm, her brain-related symptoms got a bit better over the next six months, as mentioned in the journal article.
“She’s been doing fine, but since this is a new infection, we’re watching her closely,” Senanayake said on Australia’s Ten Network television.
Later, scientists found out that the woman lives near where carpet pythons live. Even though she didn’t touch the snakes, scientists guess that she might have eaten tiny eggs from the worms. These eggs might have been on the plants she gathers to cook, or on her hands that were not clean.
In an unprecedented medical revelation, a parasitic worm was discovered squirming within the brain of a 64-year-old Australian woman. Surgeon Hari Priya Bandi skillfully removed the 3-inch worm, identified as a juvenile form of the Ophidascaris robertsi species usually found in carpet pythons. The patient’s baffling symptoms, including cognitive decline and depression, improved after the extraction.