Parasitic Worm Found ‘Alive’, ‘Wriggling’ Inside 64-Year-Old Woman’s Head

The worm, which is typically found in the digestive tracts of carpet pythons, was identified as a third-stage larva of the Ophidascaris robertsi nematode species.

Image via Getty / Pierre Von Rahmel

A parasitic worm has been found inside the brain of a 64-year-old woman, where it was found “alive” and “wriggling”.

As per the report by Sky News, the unnamed patient was infected by Ophidascaris Robertsi, a species of roundworm usually found in the guts of carpet pythons, which can roughly grow to the size long as a Twix chocolate bar. 

The British-born woman was initially diagnosed with pneumonia and was sent home with steroids; however, it wasn’t until her symptoms worsened, almost one year later, that she was sent for an MRI scan and the discovery was found.

In the world-first case, medics then had to operate on the woman’s brain where they came across a “string-like structure” within the lesion, which measured 8cm in length and 1mm in diameter. A neurosurgeon colleague called the hospital’s infectious diseases physician Dr. Sanjaya Senanayake and said: “Oh my god! You wouldn’t believe what I just found in this lady’s brain—and it’s alive and wriggling.”

Experts have since suggested that the worm may have ended up in the woman’s brain as a result of eating edible grasses that were tainted with snake faeces—although the exact cause cannot be confirmed. They also suggested previous immune-suppressing drugs she was prescribed may have helped the larvae travel.

“We hypothesised that she inadvertently consumed eggs either directly from the vegetation or indirectly by contamination of her hands or kitchen equipment,” the medics said.

They suggested that the eggs then would have hatched in her body and the larvae then would have travelled to her brain.

After, the woman was “pleased” to receive an explanation for her symptoms, according to the neurosurgeon, who added that treatments were available despite the rarity of the case.

“This Ophidascaris infection does not transmit between people, so it won’t cause a pandemic like SARS, COVID-19 or Ebola,” Senanayake told CNN. “However, the snake and parasite are found in other parts of the world, so it is likely that other cases will be recognized in coming years in other countries.

“The other message from this case is about foraging. People who forage should wash their hands after touching foraged products. Any foraged material used for salads or cooking should also be thoroughly washed.”

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