Australian neurologists recently performed a very special operation. A 64-year-old woman complained of forgetfulness and depression and had to undergo brain surgery. The doctors were surprised to see an eight-centimetre-long worm crawling in her brain during the procedure. This is the first time this parasite has been found in a human.
The New South Wales woman had been suffering from severe complaints since 2021, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, a dry cough, fever and excessive sweating. Because of her complaints, she was admitted to the hospital. After a year, depressive symptoms came on top of this, and she suddenly became very forgetful. The doctors decided to do an MRI scan and saw “abnormal activities” in her brain. It soon became clear that the woman needed brain surgery. However, the procedure turned into a bizarre discovery, which the neurologists did not see coming. Doctor Hari Priya Bandi performed the procedure and immediately reported the findings to colleagues in the hospital. ” You’ll Never Believe What I Just Found Inside This Woman’s Brain: It’s Alive And Writhing”,
Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious disease specialist at Canberra Hospital, was speechless when she heard the news. “Neurosurgeons regularly deal with infections in their patients’ brains, but this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime find. No one expected this.”
The patient resides near a lake area inhabited by carpet pythons. Despite no direct snake contact, she often collected native grasses, including warrigal greens, from around the lake to use in cooking, Senanayake said.
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The neurologists found a parasite of no less than eight centimetres during the operation. “No one expected this,” said Senanayake. After the procedure, the animal was immediately sent to a laboratory for further investigation. The investigation showed that it concerns an Ophidascaris robertsi. This is a worm normally found in pythons. This makes the 64-year-old patient the first person in whom this parasite has been found.
The woman lives near a lake where many carpet pythons live. She has never come into direct contact with a python, but the doctors and scientists believe the parasite got into the grass through a python’s faeces. The woman picked many grasses and vegetables from the lake and used them as ingredients for cooking. The eggs of the parasite probably got into her food.
Sanjaya Senanayake is also an infectious disease expert at the Australian National University. She says the patient also needed to be treated for any other larvae that could invade other parts of her body, such as the liver. The doctors had to be very careful when administering medicines. The larvae can die from the drugs, which can cause inflammation in the organs. Inflammation in the brain can be harmful to the patient, so doctors have administered drugs to counteract these side effects.
The woman’s recovery is progressing well and is still being examined. The doctors want to investigate how the larvae could have settled in her. Senanayake says this discovery highlights the danger of human-to-animal transmission of diseases. “In the last thirty years, there have been about thirty new infections in the world. Of the emerging infections worldwide, about 75 per cent are zoonotic. This infectious disease can be transmitted from the animal world to the human world. This includes coronaviruses,” said Senanayake.
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