A British man was treated for a brain condition of science fiction proportions-the first of its kind ever in the United Kingdom.
Surgeons at the Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge successfully operated on a man to remove a parasitic tapeworm. Doctors say the worm burrowed its way 5 centimeters from the right side of the man's brain to the left over the course of 4 years.
The worm, called Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, comes from the Far East and is very rare, with just 300 reported cases worldwide since 1953. It can cause severe headaches, seizures, and an infection known as 'sparganosis.' Tapeworms are spread through infected crustaceans and raw meat from amphibians and reptiles.
Believe it or not, this particular parasite is a benign version of the worm. A more aggressive type could have laid eggs, which are known to feed off brain tissue. British scientists examined the worm's DNA after successfully removing it.
Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas from the Addenbrooke Hospital told The Daily Mail that "We did not expect to see an infection of this kind in the UK, but global travel means that unfamiliar parasites do sometimes appear...Our work shows that, even with only tiny amounts of DNA from clinical samples, we can find out all we need to identify and characterise the parasite."
The data collected from the patient's tapeworm could help scientists understand cases of rare parasite-related infections.
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