Doctors find tapeworm larvae in woman’s brain after she complains of headaches

MRI scan showing cyst containing tapeworm larvae
MRI scan showing cyst containing tapeworm larvae(AJTMH / Royal Melbourne Hospital)

A woman who suffered from migraines for seven years was found to have tapeworm larvae in her brain.

The 25-year-old barista, who worked at a cafe in Melbourne, Australia, was referred to hospital when she started suffering blurred vision as well as a headache.

Doctors carried out an MRI scan which revealed an 8mm-long lesion in the occiptal lobe at the back of her head.

Surgeons removed what appeared to be a cyst without any complications – only to discover that it was not human tissue.

DNA testing revealed a match with Taenia Solium, also known as pork tapeworms because they are often passed to humans through eating undercooked pig meat.

It is believed to be the first native case of neurocysticercosis – the disease caused by infection of the central nervous system with tapeworm larvae – in Australia.”

Previous Australian cases have either been in immigrants or returning residents, who have travelled to endemic regions,” said the authors of the case study published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene last month.

The woman had never travelled overseas to countries where tapeworm infection is common, such as parts of Asia and Latin America. However she lived in an area of Melbourne where more than 10 per cent of residents were born in Asia.

Scientists believe the woman may have inadvertently ingested eggs of T. solium released by another tapeworm carrier who had come from an affected country.

“It is possible that more cases could ensue,” the experts add. “Clinicians need to be mindful that with the ease and frequency of world travel, diseases that are highly endemic in many parts of the world pose a risk to inhabitants of countries with low endemicity.”

Last year a teenager in India died after tapeworms burrowed into his brain and testicle.

And in China, a construction worker was left with hundreds of tapeworms in his brain after eating pork from a Chinese hot pot.


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