A worm common in China to inhabit your brain

Travelling to China may cause serious unpleasant consequences to your health. Consuming food and water in a slovenly way may even lead to surgical intervention.

A British man who was being treated for tuberculosis after complaining of various symptoms was later found to have a 1/3-inch-long, ribbon-shaped tapeworm living in his brain.

The 50-year-old man who first sought medical attention four years earlier, after getting headaches, was discovered in 2013 to have the Spirometra erinaceieuropaei tapeworm living in his brain, causing seizures and weakness in his legs.

"It had moved from one side of the brain to the other... very few things move in the brain," Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas said. Until the worm was found during the surgery on the man's head, doctors had never seen this tapeworm in the U.K.

The man is thought to have contracted the worm during a trip to China just before his symptoms started to appear. The parasite is more common in China, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

"We did not expect to see an infection of this kind in the U.K., but global travel means that unfamiliar parasites do sometimes appear," said Gkrania-Klotsas.

This particular tapeworm is resistant to the drugs usually used to treat other tapeworms. Although the adult form of the Spirometra tapeworm only lives in the intestines of cats and dogs, after coming into direct contact with infected animals or ingestion, such as drinking infected water, the juvenile form of tapeworm, a larva, can invade human brains.

Geneticist Haley Bennett, whose team in Cambridge, England, has recently sequenced the genome of the worm, says "it's such a rare infection it's not economically viable to create a drug just for this worm."

Also read: Thousands of worms extracted from toddler's body


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