Sydney, Australia, Aug 29 (EFE).- A group of neurosurgeons extracted an eight-centimeter live intestinal worm from the brain of an Australian woman, the first case of its kind in humans, academic sources reported Tuesday.
The parasite, identified as Ophidascaris robertsi, is common in diamondback pythons, a species endemic to Australia.
“This is the first documented human case of Ophidascaris,” said Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious disease expert at the Australian National University and Canberra Hospital, who added that it may be the first known case of a brain infection with this parasite in any species of mammal.
The 64-year-old woman was admitted to a Canberra hospital in January 2021 after suffering three weeks of abdominal pain and diarrhea, followed by fever, cough, night sweats and difficulty breathing, without respiratory tests and biopsies finding microscopic larvae.
“In retrospect, these symptoms were probably due to the migration of roundworm larvae from the intestine to other organs, such as the liver and lungs (…) At that time, trying to identify the microscopic larvae, which had never before been identified as causing human infection, was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” said Karina Kennedy, Canberra Hospital’s clinical microbiology director.
In 2022, the patient underwent an MRI after experiencing memory disturbances and depression. Imaging of the patient’s brain revealed that the woman had an atypical lesion in the right frontal lobe.
A neurosurgeon at Canberra Hospital explored the abnormality and that’s when the unexpected three-inch roundworm was found.
The parasite was extracted, alive and wriggling, from the patient during brain surgery, the date of which is not specified, and the woman is currently being examined by the team of brain and infectious diseases specialists.
Ophidascaris robertsi usually lives in the esophagus and stomach of diamondback pythons (Morelia slpitoa), a snake that can measure up to four meters in length, which sheds the parasite through its feces.
Scientists believe the Australian woman touched or ingested native grass, where the snake would have excreted the parasite, which she collected near her home in south-east Australia and used for cooking.
The experts point out that these cases of parasitic infections “are not transmitted between people” and that the patient is only considered as an accidental host, while remembering the importance of washing the collected food, especially if it is found in a wild environment. EFE