By NewsDesk @bactiman63
A parasitic disease normally just seen in Africa, Asia, and Latin America has been reported in a 25-year-old Melbourne, Australia woman with no history of travel, according to a case report in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Neurocysticercosis (NCC) is a disease caused by infection of the central nervous system with the larval stage of the tapeworm Taenia solium.
The woman presented with worsening visual symptoms in association with headache, diagnosed previously as a migraine with visual aura.
She had suffered from migraines since 18; however, a recent episode did not disappear.
A scan on the brain revealed lesion in the right bottom of her brain which upon removal revealed tapeworm larvae.
How she contracted the parasite is still a mystery and it is speculated she contracted it from a carrier. This is the first recorded autochthonous case of NCC in Australia.
What is the pork tapeworm?
Taenia solium is a tapeworm that people get from eating raw or undercooked “measly pork”. The pork meat has cysticerci (the larval stage) which in the human intestine mature to an adult tapeworm. Here the tapeworm attaches to the intestine and produces thousands of eggs.
Does the pork tapeworm cause disease while in the intestine?
Most people are asymptomatic and only become aware of the tapeworm by noticing segments of the worm in their feces. Symptoms of infection, if any, are general: nausea, intestinal upset, vague abdominal symptoms such as hunger pains, diarrhea and/or constipation, or chronic indigestion.
What is cysticercosis?
Human cysticercosis occurs either by the direct transfer of Taenia solium eggs from the feces of people harboring an adult worm to their own mouth (autoinfection) or to the mouth of another individual, or indirectly by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the eggs. When the person ingests the eggs, the embryo escape from the shell and penetrates the intestinal wall, gets into the blood vessels, where they spread to muscle, or more seriously, the eyes, heart or brain.
How serious is cysticercosis?
The severity of cystercercosis depends on which organs are infected and the number of cysticerci. An infection consisting of a few small cysticerci in the liver or muscles would likely result in no obvious disease and go unnoticed. Those that form in voluntary muscle tend to be asymptomatic, but may cause some pain. On the other hand, a few cysticerci, if located in a particularly “sensitive” area of the body, might result in irreparable damage. For instance, a cysticercus in the eye might lead to blindness, or a cysticercus in the brain (neurocysticercosis) could lead to traumatic neurological damage, epileptic seizures or brain swelling that can kill.
Neurocysticercosis is rarely acquired in economically affluent regions, including North America, Central Europe, Japan, and Australia, and in countries where pork consumption is discouraged by religious or social practices. In these countries, NCC is usually diagnosed in immigrants or returning travelers who have spent time in endemic regions.
This case report serves to put physicians on high alert for the possibility of infections in places where they least expect them.
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