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HomeWorldShocking: A live worm measuring 8cm discovered within a woman's brain

Shocking: A live worm measuring 8cm discovered within a woman’s brain

In an unprecedented medical discovery, a team of scientists has announced the astonishing finding of a live 8cm (3in) worm residing within the brain of an Australian woman. This remarkable case sheds light on a previously undocumented form of infection and highlights the potential risks of diseases passing from animals to humans.

The astounding revelation came to light when doctors removed a “string-like structure” from the damaged frontal lobe of the patient’s brain during a surgery conducted in Canberra last year. Dr. Hari Priya Bandi, the lead surgeon, expressed her shock at the unexpected discovery, stating, “It was definitely not what we were expecting. Everyone was shocked.”

The woman, aged 64, had initially suffered from symptoms such as stomach pain, a persistent cough, and night sweats. Over time, these symptoms escalated to include forgetfulness and depression. Her deteriorating condition led to her hospitalization in late January 2021. A subsequent scan exposed an “atypical lesion within the right frontal lobe of the brain.”

However, it was only during a biopsy performed by Dr. Bandi in June 2022 that the root cause of her condition was unveiled. The surgeon extracted a live parasite that had been dwelling within her brain, possibly for up to two months prior. Remarkably, the woman, who lived near a lake in south-eastern New South Wales state, is reportedly on a promising path to recovery.

The extraordinary nature of this case prompted its documentation in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, where researchers classified it as the world’s first instance of larvae invasion and development within the human brain.

The neurosurgeon responsible for the discovery recounted the moment she encountered the worm, describing how she felt a peculiar sensation as she touched the abnormal brain tissue. Dr. Bandi shared, “I pulled it out… and it was happily moving, quite vigorously, outside the brain.” Her findings left the entire operating team stunned.

Upon consultation with her colleague, infectious diseases expert Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake, the two medical professionals realized the unique nature of the situation. Dr. Senanayake remarked, “Even if you take away the yuck factor, this is a new infection never documented before in a human being.”

Researchers suggest that this case serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers posed by diseases and infections transmitted from animals to humans. The roundworm, known as Ophidascaris robertsi, is commonly found in carpet pythons, non-venomous snakes that inhabit various parts of Australia.

Experts speculate that the woman may have contracted the parasite after coming into contact with Warrigal greens, a type of native grass, in the vicinity of a lake where carpet pythons are also found. The grass might have been contaminated with python feces and parasite eggs, inadvertently introducing the worm into the woman’s system.

Dr. Mehrab Hossain, an Australian parasitology expert, suggested that the woman became an “accidental host” due to her use of contaminated foraged plants for cooking. The unexpected growth of the larvae in the human host is particularly significant, given that prior studies had not demonstrated similar developments in domesticated animals.

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Dr. Senanayake, who is also an associate professor of medicine at the Australian National University, stressed the importance of recognizing the interplay between human expansion and animal habitats. He urged governments and epidemiologists to prioritize robust infectious diseases surveillance to prevent future outbreaks and cross-species infections. The case not only marks a groundbreaking medical discovery but also serves as a crucial call to action for ongoing research and vigilance in the face of emerging infectious threats.

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