Tapeworm operated on from a man's brain

Tapeworm operated on from a man's brain

Parasite lived in a man's brain for four years
21.11.2014

It started with a headache, memory flashbacks, and a strange change in olfactory senses, and ended with surgery to remove an approximately one-centimeter long and extremely rare tapeworm from the brain of a 50-year-old man. The tapeworm lived in the patient's head for four years and, according to the genome research institute “Wellcome Trust Sanger”, moved about five centimeters from the right to the left brain.

Findings from the tapeworm genome in the man's brain open up new therapeutic options. As the institute further reports, infection of humans by the tapeworm Spirometra erinacei-europaei is very rare. A so-called Sparganose, an inflammation of body tissue, can develop in those affected. If the brain is affected, the patients often suffer from severe headaches, seizures and memory loss. Humans only come into contact with tapeworm larvae through the consumption of contaminated crab meat, raw frog or snake meat, and through frog envelopes used in China to treat eye infections.

For the first time, the genome of this rare tapeworm could be sequenced by the discovery in the brain of the 50-year-old, which opens up new possibilities for diagnosis and therapy of this invasive parasite. “We only had a tiny amount of DNA to work with - just 40 billionths of a gram. So we were forced to make difficult decisions about what information we wanted to extract from the DNA, "said Hayley Bennett, lead author of the study from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Rare tapeworm could be determined using tiny DNA samples "We would never have expected to encounter such an infection in Great Britain, but with the travels around the world, unusual parasites can also appear here," said Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas from the university clinic in Cambridge, "We can use MRI to diagnose sparganosis, but this does not give us the information we need to identify the exact types of tapeworms and their weaknesses. Our work shows that we can find out even the tiniest amount of DNA from clinical samples can do what we need to identify and characterize the parasite. "(ag)

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