During the examination of one man’s head, Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania – Klotsas noticed something very shocking – worms.
As he explains, it is possible and these worms may to invade your brain, and because of that in this article we want to alert you: don’t eat this food! If the worms get into your body, they will eventually find their way to your major organ, including the brain. These worms are a dangerous parasite that can have fatal consequences!
It is interesting that the tapeworm that was inside the head of this man, is a type of worm that was never before seen in the UK!
Namely, 4 years ago the team at Addenbrookes Hospital at Cambridge, examined a man who complained that he constantly suffers from unbearable headaches. After a while he came back for tests with new symptoms. It is important to mention that the patient had previously travelled to China, a country which had most cases of the parasite known as Spirometra erinaceieuropaei along Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Dr. Klotsas says: “When the patient returned, he had all new symptoms”. The worm was finding its way to a new part of the brain, causing symptoms such as weakness in the legs and seizures besides his headaches. The infection that caused his troubles was Sparganosis, a parasitic infection caused by the plerocercoid larvae of diphyllobothroid tapeworms belonging to the genus Spirometra. When the doctors diagnosed him with the infection, they had to immediately remove the worm surgically, as the infection cannot be treated by any known drugs.
Interesting fact is that in period of 60 years, between 1953 and 2013 there were registered only 300 Spirometra infections. They mostly occur in parts of Asia populated by people that has almost no knowledge of tapeworms. This type of the Spirometra tapeworm typically occurs in the intestines of animals such as dogs and cats. The animals then excrete the worm’s eggs through their feces, and the eggs eventually enter and contaminate water sources. The larvae then stay in the water for a long time until they end up in other animals such as snakes or frogs. People can be infected with direct contact with an animal that has the Spirometra tapeworm in its body. Dr. Klotsas says that she recently had a patient who infected himself unknowingly by drinking water from a contaminated source.
As Bennett explains, the most terrifying fact is that the Spirometra larvae can encyst the brain and other body parts and organs, and can cause blindness, paralysis, tissue damage and can even be fatal. Through research on the worm’s genes and internal functions, he hoped to find a way to cure the infection.
Luckily, statistical data shows that this infection is rare, so creating a drug which will cure it is not practical and economically viable. The medical experts say that solution is by comparing the Spirometra tapeworm to other tapeworms, to see if other drugs can work. They extracted pieces of the tapeworm from the patient and hope to discover its resistance to drugs. They also hope that the research can be of great importance in the future. They will try to identify large genes and genome from these small pieces.
Although this information is not relief , of all the tapeworm types, only 3 can infect the brain. Helena Helmby from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that the pork tapeworm is the main culprit for infecting the brain.
In addition to that, there are two forms of infections with the pork tapeworm by which humans can be infected:
The first form of infection is by consuming underdone pork from pigs that were infected by the tapeworm. This results in taeniasis, when an adult worm resides in the intestine.
The second form of infection occurs is the larvae form and is transferred by direct contact with animal feces. This can cause neurocysticercosis, a condition when the larval worm infests the nervous system and the brain. This kind of infection is very dangerous, as it can cause epilepsy. The World Health Organisation claims that a third of all epilepsy cases in areas where the infections is native are caused by neurocysticercosis.
Neurocysticercosis thrives in areas with poor hygiene and sanitation
Experts explain that poor hygiene is the main cause for infection and consuming the eggs of the adult worm that lives in the intestine. “It is a common self – infection”, she adds. Although the infection is more common in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, due to the the global distribution of pork, tapeworms easily are transmitted. Dr. Klotsas has already had three neurocysticercosis patients in her care at Cambridge.
The only effective way to remove the Spirometra tapeworm is surgical intervention. Bennett’s team have found a drug, praziqantil, that may be effective. It comes to drug that commonly is used to treat schistosomiasis (snail fever). Some cancer drugs have also proven to be effective. Anthelminthic drugs are targeting the worm as well.
Both Helmby and Dr. Gkrania – Klotsas are concerned about the increased global food trade and international travel and the potential risk they bring. The risk of eating infected products is bigger and because the food export and import rises. This is only one reason why strict food inspections are required. Helmby expects more cases in the UK, where the infection was previously eradicated.
Helmby and Gkrania – Klotsas highlighted that people should be extremely careful when are visiting regions where the infection is common.
Last, but not least, it is important to mention that proper hygiene and global awareness can defeat this infection. Helmby says: “We need to be able to treat these infections, that’s the challenge at the moment”. It is a challenge where genetic research could be priceless, as the research on the genes is uncovering the secrets of the deadly parasite.