This man complained of painful migraines, his doctors discovered a parasite in his brain

Affected by violent migraines, a 52-year-old American was rushed into emergency care. Doctors were able to identify the cause, and it's not a very appetizing one.

man complained migraines parasite brain doctors shocked
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man complained migraines parasite brain doctors shocked

On March 7, 2024, the American Journal of Case Report reported a case of neurocysticercosis, a disease characterized by the presence of larvae in the brain. The man was infected with the 'larval form of Taenia solium, a porcine tapeworm that uses pigs as an intermediate host'. Ingesting this larvae can then lead to the development of larvae-filled cysts that become embedded in the nervous system.

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Infection occurs when a human ingests water or food contaminated with tapeworm cysts.

Intense migraines: one of the symptoms of neurocysticercosis

In the case reported by the scientific journal, the Florida-born patient underwent examinations in November 2023, when his condition appeared to be worsening. The man, who suffered from chronic migraines, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus, had been experiencing increasingly severe migraines for the past 4 months. Seizures are another frequent symptom of the disease.

After consultation, the doctors made their diagnosis using neuroimaging and serology tests. The patient was then able to treat his neurocysticercosis with antiparasitic and anti-inflammatory drugs.

But while this pathology generally occurs in 'endemic areas where there is close promiscuity between inhabitants and free-ranging pigs', reports WHO, the frequency of contamination is increasing in developed countries, 'due to increased access to travel', explains the American Journal of Case Report.

Contamination via uncooked pork meat

In this case, the Floridian had not travelled to a high-risk area, suggesting that the contamination was caused by poor eating habits. The man frequently ate undercooked bacon, exposing himself to bacteria and larvae. These parasites then established their nests in his brain, and by the time they reached adulthood, could have grown to several meters in length.

Although cases of contamination in the United States are extremely rare, the scientists called for vigilance, particularly when a patient's migraines worsen suddenly. The report states:

Consumption of undercooked pork is a theoretical risk factor for neurocysticercosis by auto-inoculation, as we suspected in this case.

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

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Sources used:

American Journal of Case Reports: Neurocysticercosis Presenting as Migraine in the United States

World Health Organization: Taeniasis/Cysticercose

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